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Legionnaires remember veterans at attack of Pearl Harbor

MADISON – In conjunction with placing wreaths on veterans’ graves, Madison American Legion, Post 229 conducted a commemorative ceremony for the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and other military installations in Hawaii.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged the United States into World War II.

In a fitting and touching gesture, 99-year-old Sherwin Callander, a World War II veteran, started the ceremony by placing the first wreath on a World War II veteran’s grave. American Legion, Post 229 Honor Guard accompanied cadets from Sparkman and Bob Jones High School Army and Air Force Junior ROTC units to escort Callander through the cemetery.

Callander placed the wreath at the grave of Lethaniel Garner, also a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. Garner’s parents were Leo and Laura (Littles) Garner of Morgan County. He was born on Feb. 12, 1927, and was only 18 years old when he registered for service on his birthday in 1945, according to Post 229 Historian and Publicist Richard Blanton.

Garner was assigned to the U.S.S. West Virginia (BB48) battleship. The West Virginia was in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 and suffered repeated bomb and torpedo hits before capsizing with significant loss of life. However, the vessel was raised, repaired and returned to combat service as America pushed back against Japan.

In 1946, Garner was discharged as a Steward 1st Class. He married Mabel Sales in Madison County on Feb. 27, 1951. He passed away on Nov. 24, 2011.

On the evening of December 6, Sherwin saw a silhouette of a large aircraft carrier they believed to be the U.S.S. Enterprise. Later, they realized vessel likely was a Japanese carrier in the attack.

Callander sailed in to Pearl Harbor with the scene of a devastated U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was ordered to assist with the recovery of casualties. “Sherwin would later on volunteer for the new amphibious training and found himself assigned to a Higgins boat landing craft. He participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily/Southern France and Normandy D-Day,” Blanton said.

To close the ceremony in Madison, Legionnaire Robert Kirby played “Taps.”

To distribute wreaths, Madison Legionnaires joined more than 100 residents representing Bob Jones Air Force JROTC, Sparkman Army JROTC, Raytheon Veterans, Forever Young Senior Veterans and Girl Scout Troops 926, 35, 10001, 10950, 21210, 21215, 21219 and Boy Scout Troop 201.

For more information, call 256-258-8534, email Commander@americanlegionpost229.org or Adjutant@americanlegionpost229 or visit americanlegionpost229.org.

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