McAllen honors 80th anniversary of attack on Pearl Harbor

The McAllen Fire Department Honor Guard present the colors during the 80-year anniversary ceremony for the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at the Veterans War Memorial of Texas in McAllen. (Alejandra Yanez | The Monitor)

McALLEN — The Veterans War Memorial Committee joined the city in hosting a ceremony to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in a community that many veterans believe still values patriotism.

Aaron Magana, of the McAllen Fire Department, sings the National Anthem as the Honor Guard presents the colors to the audience on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
(Alejandra Yanez | The Monitor)

The attack upon the U.S. naval base, Pearl Harbor, occurred on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said — in Honolulu and was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
The U.S. was a neutral country at the time of the attack and formally entered World War II the day after the attack.

This evoked strong feelings of patriotism at the time, according to Col. Frank S. Plummer, a World War II veteran from McAllen who said he was only 17-years-old when he heard of the attacks.

Plummer was the only World War II veteran in attendance Tuesday and said he was just a kid at the time he decided to enlist in the war. He said he enlisted because he felt a calling to serve thanks to a love of country.

“You have to understand we were kids, so I didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was,” Plummer said. “I had to look it up on the map.”

Although there was the disconnect of location, he said he felt he needed to help fight back as most of his buddies at the time also felt.

The colonel said he would sing patriotic songs with pride in his youth because everyone seemed to express the same sentiments at the time. Plummer served for 32 years as a colonel and said as a retired veteran he is happy to be alive to honor his comrades in a city that values patriotism.

The city of McAllen created the Veterans War Memorial of Texas thanks to help from Plummer, who was the president for the project and advocated for a sacred place where the community could come and learn about U.S. history as stroll through the memorial.

Members of the McAllen Police Honor Guard stand at attention moments before the three-volley salute, a ceremonial gun fire performed to honor the fallen on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
(Alejandra Yanez | The Monitor)

“I remembered when we were here it was just a piece of dirt and it set off,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said at the event. “God loves this area because he keeps sending us good people, and Col. Plummer happened to be one of those and he had this idea. … But this is what happens when people fall in love with something and take pride in community and what we can do together.”

While Plummer intended for the memorial to be especially friendly for field trips and students, it appears his detailed work on the memorial is most appreciated by his fellow veterans.

Herbert Lichtenegger, an 82-year-old winter Texan from Missouri said he comes every winter to appreciate the memorial and has never missed a Memorial Day or Pearl Harbor ceremony. The retired Navy veteran of 20 years served off the coast of Vietnam in an Air Force carrier and said he knows survivors of World War II and remembers his comrades that did not come home with him.

With tears in his eyes, Lichtenegger said he occasionally visits the Veterans War Memorial of Texas on his own to work out his thoughts.

“It’s humbling to me,” he said as he began to choke up.