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Arizonans come together to remember Pearl Harbor

Arizonans come together to remember Pearl Harbor
Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 08:17:31-05

The attack on Pearl Harbor forever changed America 79 years ago when more than 2,400 Americans were killed and the country was thrust into World War II.

On Monday, dozens gathered at the Salt-River USS Memorial Gardens to commemorate the anniversary.

Al Yarusso was there to play Taps. He has played the somber melody since he was 18 years old in the Army band.

"I can’t even count how many times," said Yarusso. "I was very impacted playing funerals for soldiers who, sometimes, were even younger than me."

The 71-year-old grabbed his grandson's plastic trumpet Monday morning, to share his gift of music, without ever being asked.

"It’s always emotional, when you think about all the guys that didn’t come back with us," said Tony Ventura, an Air Force Veteran.

Ventura is Yarusso's self-proclaimed brother for 60 years.

"This day will never ever be forgotten," said Yarusso. "We owe such a tremendous debt to all of our fallen heroes."

On the 79th anniversary, veterans paid their respects alongside families.

"This is bigger than COVID," said Rick Hartman, retired US Army. "I’m part of the committee that went to Hawaii and met with the Navy. And we asked them for a piece of the USS Arizona."

As people milled around the manicured, hallowed grounds, they reflected on the loss, as well as the country's response.

"The good that came out of it, is how it united our country," said Yarusso. "And that is something we are in dire need for once again - to pull ourselves together and realize that, regardless of who we are [and] where we come from, we are all Americans."

"Together we can handle anything and fractured we’re going to struggle," said Hartman.

Right now, America's battle is with an invisible virus.

In 2020, Taps has been played for combat veterans who lost their lives, not overseas, but at local hospitals or long-term care facilities.

As the slow Taps notes floated over the crowd Monday, there was hope among the group that America would learn from the past and honor the men and women who gave everything for our country.

"I would hope that we don’t have to have a Pearl Harbor to get us back together," said Al Hillman, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Scottsdale.

Located east of Pima Road, between Great Wolf Lodge Arizona and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Memorial Gardens features a piece of the original boathouse of the USS Arizona that sank at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Gardens is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk.