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Veterans hope 'Pearl Harbor' brings new focus to attack

Veterans hope Pearl Harbor brings the realities of the Japanese attack to new generations.

By TODD WRIGHT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- George Sallet tried his best to hold it together, but as the National Anthem played he broke down.

For the 79-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, the visions and memories of Dec. 7, 1941, played back as vividly as the scenes in the movie he was about to see.

" 'Remember Pearl Harbor, Keep America alert' is the quote I live by everyday. That's what makes this so special," Sallet said.

Sallet was one of 55 veterans of Pearl Harbor who took part in a commemorative ceremony before viewing a screening of the movie, Pearl Harbor, later Wednesday evening at the ParkSide 16 movie complex.

"I hope this movie is accurate because I think it can grab a lot of young people's attention and show them how big a deal this was," said Sallet.

The half-hour ceremony, sponsored by Veteran's Today magazine, included nostalgic musical performances from the 1940s and a tribute to the military veterans who attended. Although the tone for the ceremonies was one of rememberance, many of the Pearl Harbor survivors attending thought the focus should be on prevention.

"I think these types of events and movies not only make people aware of what happened, but what could happen," said Pearl Harbor survivor Claude Blondin.

Blondin, 79, is a member of the Suncoast chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, based in St. Petersburg. During the ceremony, the chapter was presented with a plaque by Veteran's Today for active service within the organization.

"We want to leave a legacy for kids today because we are all that is left," said Ben C. Begley, former national association president and current Suncoast chapter president.

Begley, 84, who speaks at area schools about Pearl Harbor, thinks many youths are unaware of what happened at Pearl Harbor. Other survivors shared the same concerns and hoped that the movie would educate as well as entertain.

"The kids today don't know and that hurts," said Begley. "Someone needs to educate these young people about Pearl Harbor because we won't be here for much longer."

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