Seaside has many treasures “hidden” before our very eyes, ones we may take for granted because we don’t fully grasp their importance. One such gem is the First Avenue Bridge, also known as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, with three memorial plaques I had failed to notice until today.
Seaside’s bridge is one of only a handful of such memorials and is certainly apt for the area, given the Oregon Coast’s unhappy distinction of being one of the few places on the US Mainland to be attacked following Pearl Harbor. A Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens in April of 1942 and a Japanese plane bombed the southern coast in September of the same year. Thankfully, damage was minimal and a feared full-scale invasion never materialized.
This morning I attended the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Seaside Convention Center. In an effort to establish countywide recognition of this infamous day, several groups came together to mark the occasion. Under the leadership of Seaside Resident and Pearl Harbor survivor, Bill Thomas, with the cooperation of the City of Seaside, the American Legion coordinated the event and was joined by members of the Oregon National Guard, US Coast Guard, VFW and several other active and retired military men and women. Also on hand were Representative Deborah Boone and a representative from Senator Jeff Merkley’s office. The rest of us civilians were there to pay tribute to family and friends who have served our nation whether at Pearl Harbor or elsewhere during World War II or even in other conflicts including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Remembrance Day Ceremony opened with Thomas announcing this would be his last year coordinating the event and he was given a rousing hand for his efforts over the years to ensure that the events of December 7, 1941 not be forgotten.
Guest speaker Retired Admiral Ed Nelson of the US Coast Guard outlined the events that led up to the attack helping me to better comprehend the significance of that day. I also appreciated his childhood recollections of starting each school day with a patriotic song, not, he said, to glorify war but to remember and show respect. Why remember? “Because sacrifice without remembrance is meaningless.”
While we listened to comments by Admiral Nelson and other guests, a slideshow played in the background showing pictures of Bill Thomas’ trip back to Pearl Harbor last December. Eventually, we made our way to the bridge for the presentation of the wreath. Thomas tossed a fresh floral wreath into the river below as a US Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead. The ceremony concluded with a Three Bell Salute and the playing of Taps. It was solemn but not sad. The crowd dispersed with hugs and handshakes, shoulders erect and heads held high, a mixture of pride and humility.
After the ceremony, I spoke with Seaside Mayor Don Larson, a retired Army Reservist. He expressed regret that Pearl Harbor was buried on page 3 of one of the more prominent newspapers and eagerly voiced his desire that the heroes of Pearl Harbor be remembered, thus the City’s Proclamation that December 7th is officially Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Thank you, Bill Thomas, and all of the participants, for being such an important part of the treasure of the North Coast.