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"Remembering 'a sad day"

Pearl Harbor's heroes honored

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Vernon Lingle (right), a World War II veteran who participated in the Allied forces' landing at Normandy on D-Day, and Hunter Soldal from Boy Scouts of America Troop 158 carry wreaths on Pearl Harbor Day to the water's edge at Veterans Park in Elizabeth City, Thursday. The wreaths were tossed into the Pasquotank River in honor of the more than 2,300 American lives lost at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, December 8, 2017

Vernon Lingle recalls Dec. 7, 1941, as a sad day.

The 92-year-old Hertford resident was a teenager living in western North Carolina when he first heard the news that Japanese planes had attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians.

At the time, Lingle knew about Hawaii but had no idea the U.S. had a naval base there.

Thinking back now on the attack that prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to ask Congress for a war declaration against Japan, pushing the U.S. into World War II, Lingle still feels a measure of sadness. 

"It was sad, to think of it, and it still is," he said Thursday on the 76th anniversary of the day Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”

Lingle was among the approximately 20 area residents who gathered at Veterans Park in Elizabeth City on Thursday for the annual Pearl Harbor Day observance. The event is organized by the William Clarence Jackson Post 6060 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Jackson was an Elizabeth City native killed at Pearl Harbor while serving aboard the USS West Virginia, one of the ships attacked and sunk during the Japanese attack.

Lingle and others on hand for the ceremony tossed wreaths into the Pasquotank River in honor of the American lives lost at Pearl Harbor. 

Afterward, Lingle said the nation still “owes all the gratitude that we can give” to those who died at Pearl Harbor.

Lingle did his part to show his gratitude. He would go on to serve in the U.S. Navy’s amphibious forces during World War II. He was among the thousands of American troops to land on the coast of Normandy, France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. 

More than 2,000 Americans lost their lives during the D-Day landing. Lingle was among the thousands who survived and began the offensive to push occupying German troops out of France.  

"I don't know how I made it through that invasion, but I did," Lingle said.

He eventually would end up in the Pacific as part of the forces being organized to invade Japan. That invasion never happened, however. After President Truman ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on two Japanese cities — Hiroshima and Nagasaki — in August 1945, the Japanese government surrendered and the war came to an end. 

"We knew the end was near” after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki “and it was a very happy day," Lingle said.

After the war, Lingle would go on to serve two decades in the military, completing his service in the U.S. Air Force.

Hertford resident Mark Jenkins was another military veteran attending Thursday’s Pearl Harbor observance. Unlike Lingle, Jenkins’ service is more recent: he served in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jenkins, 31, said ceremonies like Thursday’s at Veterans Park are important because they remember and honor those who suffered and sacrificed in defense of their country.

"It is something that must not be forgotten," he said.

Asked how his generation of returning war veterans have been treated by their fellow Americans, Jenkins said it’s generally been with open arms.

"The veterans and service members that went before us have made sure that there hasn't been the same repeat as what happened to the Vietnam vets," he said. "A large portion of the country has decided what happened to the veterans of the Vietnam era was a disgrace on this nation."

Jenkins wife, Laura, echoed her husband on the importance of remembering those who’ve served.

"We don't want to just live day-to-day and have no appreciation or context for what the sacrifice was," she said.

Laura Jenkins, 31, said both she and her husband grew up in military families; her grandfather was a medic in World War II.

"I think that they would want us to be here today," she said. “It's really our duty as civilians to serve those who served, to let them know that they're not alone, that they're not forgotten.”

Mark Jenkins said he was glad the city of Elizabeth City decided to honor veterans by building Veterans Park.

"It is a beautiful piece of property," he said. "I will definitely be coming back to many more ceremonies here."

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