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On anniversary of Pearl Harbor, family members, veterans stress importance of remembrance

On anniversary of Pearl Harbor, family members, veterans stress importance of remembrance
Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 18:28:47-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tuesday marks 80 years since the "date which will live in infamy". On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, launching the United States into World War II.

The Virginia War Memorial held its annual service to remember that day for a crowd of a few dozen and stressed the importance of doing so as fewer veterans of the war remain.

"I remember it very vividly." Graham Nelms, a World War II veteran, said.

For Nelms, the news of the events of the fateful day came as he sat in a movie theater on Hull Street.

"They interrupted the movie to tell us that Pearl Harbor had been bombed," Nelms said.

Nelms, who was 15 at the time, went outside to spread the word in his role as a newspaper boy.

"I done made 58 cents before it was all over that evening," Nelms said.

When he came of age, he joined the Navy in 1943. He served in both theaters and then a second stint in the Korean War.

"I wouldn't trade the experience that I've had for a million dollars but I wouldn't give you five cents to do it again," Nelms said.

On Tuesday, he was among those at the Virginia War Memorial, remembering the day, those who served and the dozens of Virginians who lost their lives.

One of those Virginians was John Hildebrand. He is part of a new exhibit at the memorial called Who They Were. The exhibit features his story and the only thing recovered with him — a set of keys.

"It resonates with people when they can see actually something that this individual had with him on December 7, 1941," Dr. Clay Mountcastle, the memorial's director, said.

The service also featured hymns, pipes and a wreath-laying, including one from families of those who were at Pearl Harbor. One of those family members was Lewis Brand, whose brother George served on the USS West Virginia and passed away a few years ago.

"He was shook up about it. In his later year, it affected his mind," Bland said.

As fewer veterans from that era remain, those at Tuesday's remembrance stressed that it falls to them to carry on their stories. Organizers stress that as fewer veterans of that era remain with us, it falls on current generations to ensure they're not forgotten.

"Maintain them and pass them on to future generations," Mountcastle said.

"Yes, the attack on Pearl Harbor was eight decades ago. And I suspect that those who were there that day we'll understand if you can't recall their names. But they will be very disappointed if we ever forget why they gave up everything," Capt. John Maxwell, retired Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, said.