Stewart: I wear my father’s wings; reflections on Pearl Harbor

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert requested the lowering of the flags of the United States and Utah in honor of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Wednesday, as authorized by the president. He encouraged all individuals, businesses, schools and groups to fly these flags at half-staff at all state facilities from sunrise to sunset on this day.

World War II veterans stepped forward to serve at a very difficult time in the world’s history, rightfully earning them the title of the Greatest Generation, Herbert said. Many of those who fought at Pearl Harbor gave the ultimate sacrifice during that critical juncture in the history of our nation, and we owe to them both our deepest gratitude and a commitment to support our troops and veterans.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a former Air Force Bomber pilot, addressed the House of Representatives Wednesday, reflecting on the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor in a speech on the House Floor.

Stewart’s speech can be viewed in the media player top of this report. The text of his address is as follows.

Thank you Mr. Speaker. As I think all of us know, today mark’s the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. This devastating event took the lives of more than 2,300 Americans and ultimately led of course to the United States’ entrance into World War II. And though it’s painful to think of all the brave men and woman that we lost that day, I’m grateful for this heroic generation of soldiers, including my own father, who served in defense of the freedoms of our country during World War II.

I wear my father’s wings – I have them on today, I wear them every day. My mom and dad loved their country. And they like so many others sacrificed so much.

It was examples of these heroes such as these that led me to make the decision when I was a young man to become a pilot in the Air Force.

I’d like to take a moment to share the story of one brave Utahn, Mervyn Bennion, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack.

After graduating from high school in Salt Lake City, Bennion accepted his appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated near the top of his class. He later assumed command of the USS West Virginia in July of 1941.

The ship was moored with other vessels on Battleship Row on that Sunday morning. Just shy of 8am, Japanese forces struck the USS West Virginia with at least 6 Torpedoes and 2 bombs.

Under attack and struggling to organize a defense from the bridge, Captain Bennion was struck with shrapnel from one of these bombs. But still, he continued to direct his ship’s battle. While using one of his hands to hold his own wounds closed. Several sailors attempted to convince him to go to the first aid station and seek medical attention, but he refused to leave his post. And sadly, he later died because of loss of blood.

Captain Bennion was recognized with the Medal of Honor, of course our nation’s highest military honor, for his “conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life.”

Today, on the anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, let us remember not only the brave men and women who lost their lives in that attack, but also the men and women who have continued to fight for our freedoms over the last 75 years.

We live in a dark and dangerous world, and in dark and dangerous places all around the globe, American soldiers, sailors and airmen are doing what they can to bring stability and safety to many parts of the world. We should remember them. We should thank them. We should keep them and their families in our prayers. What we have asked to them to do isn’t easy. They deserve our gratitude and respect.

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