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WVU marks 82nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor with ceremony at the USS West Virginia mast

MORGANTOWN — Thursday marked the 82nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the WVU Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs again hosted a memorial ceremony on the plaza of the USS West Virginia mast and bell in front of Oglebay Hall.

It was a gathering, said the center’s Interim Director Penny Lipscomb, to continue the tradition of honoring the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

Lipscomb introduced Jack Bowman, a retired WVU law school professor of 23 years and U.S. Army veteran who held the rank of captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps. She reminded everyone that Bowman led the effort to bring the mast of the decommissioned battleship USS West Virginia to WVU.

“Due to his persistence, he made the impossible task possible,” she said. For his work, Bowman was recently awarded the Historic Preservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Bowman looked out on an audience packed with ROTC cadets, active duty personnel and veterans, and said, “I am filled with gratitude for the service of those who have maintained our freedom.”

Bowman in turn introduced keynote speaker Secretary of State Mac Warner, a 23-year Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, among other places, and retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Warner dwelt on the theme of “If you want peace, prepare for war,” a quote from a 4th-century Roman general taken up centuries later by Gen. George Washington.

Warned cited a quote from the Robin Williams movie “Dead Poets Society”: carpe diem — seize the day.

Williams’ character, a teacher, told his students that quote came from people of the past speaking to today. And the mast, the bell, and the recently acquired USS West Virginia life preserver are doing just that.

One fruit of war preparedness, he said, is deterrence, but deterrence requires not only the capability, but the will to act. The wars in Ukraine and Israel are exemplars of the failure of deterrence, he said.

And in 1950, he said, just five years after the victory in World War II, North Korea was undeterred by America’s prowess and invaded the south. So, on July 5, 1950, President Truman sent Task Force Smith into Korea, and we fought another war.

The armistice was signed in 1953, and South Korea remains an example of what it means to stand for freedom, Warner said; while under the dictatorship across the northern border, Koreans suffer poverty and starvation.

We came together after 9/11, Warner said, but now we’re divided and unsure of ourselves. “I’m calling on us here, gathered today, to recommit ourselves to the American dream, to what America stands for, to what that red, white and blue stands for.”

We need to teach our children about what America is, that it is the standard bearer for human rights and freedom across the globe, he said. “Let’s seize that day. … We need to bring America back to its glory.

If we want to maintain the peace, and I think we all do, we must stay prepared for war.”

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution laid wreaths at the foot of the mast of the USS West Virginia — a battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor, but raised, restored and returned to service, present at the Japanese surrender in 1945 and decommissioned in 1946.

Members of VFW Posts 548 and 9916 fired a 21-gun salute. Seven ROTC cadets — four Army, three Air Force, rang the bell of another USS West Virginia, an armored cruiser commissioned in 1905 and decommissioned in 1920.

Members of the Earl Anderson Marine Corps League Detachment 342 presented and retired the colors. Chaplain Captain Tony Setley, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, provided the opening invocation and closing benediction.

Following the ceremony, participants made their way down to the lobby of the Downtown Library to view a new display, a life preserver from the battleship. It was donated to the West Virginia and Regional History Center by alumnus Ken Kendrick, his wife, Randy, and his brother, Rick. In the afternoon, the display was moved to the Center where it will be exhibited through March.

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