December 2, 2012 -- The threat of rain did not stop guests from commemorating the 71st Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Over 100 people attended the ceremony which took place today at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Fort Lauderdale. The honored veterans in attendance were Abe Stein and Edward Hammond, the only Pearl Harbor survivors in South Florida. The yearly event, which is always held on December 7th, was moved forward so that Naval Sea Cadets at the Coast Guard station could be part of the ceremony. A large number of veterans and uniformed navy personnel were in attendance at the ceremony overlooking Port Everglades. "Allure of the seas", the largest cruise ship in the world, sat parked across the port in the distance.
Each year the ranks of the Pearl Harbor survivors dwindles. But Abe Stein, who is now 92, still remembers the attack as if it were yesterday. The Aventura resident and Orthodox Jew was an 21-year old Army Private and working as a medic at a hospital in Hawaii at the time of the attack. The surprise attack on December 7, 1941, which killed over 2400 American soldiers, led directly to the American entry into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt went on to proclaim the event, "a date which will live in infamy." After surviving the attack, Mr. Stein went on to serve in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. When the war ended, Stein moved to South Florida and entered the Hotel hospitality business. He is one of the founders of The Shul of Bal Harbour and one of the prominent members attending Shabbat services there to this very day.
Among the notable speakers at today's ceremony was Mary Anne Gray, chairperson of the Broward Navy Days. "There are very few of us here that know where we were on December 7th", she said. She then compared the attack on Pearl Harbor to both Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and the World Trade center attacks on September 11th. "Those are the dates we remember", said Gray. "We need to make sure that our young people and all generations continue to remember December 7th, Pearl Harbor, because fewer and fewer of those people are going to be with us. It is something that is in our heritage, it's part of our country. We honor those of you who served."
Also in attendance were Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca and Captain Richard Kenin, Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard district. Captain Kernin read aloud a letter to Mr. Stein from the French ambassador to the United States appointing Mr. Stein as a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honour, with "Infinite gratitude in the liberation of our country during WWII". Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour is the highest decoration given by France. The official awarding to Mr. Stein from France will take place at The Shul of Bal Harbour on December 19th, 2012.
The ceremony ended with a moment of silence and an emotional Stein tossing the ceremonial wreath into the sea. Two large, frosted cakes were served as refreshments after the ceremony with the inscription, "May we never forget".