Fallen in attack, honored by kids

On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, students also pay respects to 16 from Hernando who died in war.

By BETH N. GRAY, Times Correspondent
Published December 8, 2007

SPRING HILL - Students at Chocachatti Elementary School on Friday recognized the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with a ceremonial planting of flags throughout a memorial garden at the campus.

U.S. flags were posted at the base of each of the 16 trees commemorating 16 Hernando County servicemen who died in World War II. The flags wafted in a slight breeze under a picture-perfect blue sky.

Each tree was adorned with a red ribbon. The various species of trees represent different nationalities of the members of the military who served in the war, noted Bob Muehlbauer, who organized the event by the AT&T Pioneers Life Members Club.

One of the flag carriers, 10-year-old Sydney Taylor, said of Pearl Harbor day, "I know that it was when the Japanese bombed America in Pearl Harbor."

Added Monique Helm, 10, who also planted a flag, "Dec. 7 is the first day that World War II started."

Said Andrew Ercolomano, 10, "I know that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor."

The fourth-graders all are members of the school's beautification micro society, said sponsor and teacher Jody Ware.

Among the audience of about 30 onlookers sat a grizzled 86-year-old John Anderson of Spring Hill. He wasn't at Pearl Harbor during the attack, but he served in the European theater after he enlisted in the Army at age 23.

He was a telecommunications specialist, serving on the front lines in France, Germany and Holland, managing contacts between battalions. He also was in the Battle of the Bulge.

A longtime member of the AT&T Pioneers Life Member Club and its past president, Anderson earned a Bronze Star "for service above and beyond."

He's unsure about which mission brought him the medal, but he notably recalls an incident in which he had to unload all of the communications equipment from his truck and stock it with whiskey for officers on the front line.

"I had to tell them their Christmas whiskey allotment was coming," he said.

His wife of 61 years, Anna, interjected, "Officers, he didn't like them."

The audience enjoyed the 21-member second-grade choir, which sang rousing military songs under the direction of music teacher Becky Ickstadt, and gave them enthusiastic applause.

They also appreciated an opening trumpet medley of military refrains by Michele DiLuzio, assistant director and chief trumpeter with the Hernando Symphony Orchestra. She also closed the ceremony with taps. The Knights of Columbus Chapter 1721 Color Corps provided the honor guard for the event.

Hernando School District superintendent Wayne Alexander read off the names of the World War II fallen as the children planted the flags.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.