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'Some of it was like it was yesterday:’ North Alabama Pearl Harbor survivor hopes we never forget

Sherwin Callander is on an important mission. He wants to make sure that we never forget that horrible day 78 years ago.

Posted: Dec 9, 2019 8:50 AM
Updated: Dec 9, 2019 8:54 AM

Sherwin Callander is on an important mission. He wants to make sure that we never forget that horrible day 78 years ago, Pearl Harbor.

"Some of it was like it was yesterday," Callander said.

WWII and Pearl Harbor veteran Sherwin Callander pauses to honor one of his comrades on Dec. 7, 2019 during a ceremony to remember those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor 78 years ago.

He recalled the day when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. Although he was stationed there, he was actually one day out of port after conducting repairs to an airstrip on nearby Midway Island.

"(The) Japanese carrier had passed us," Callander remembered.

That was Dec. 6. Little did he know at the time, what he saw was a Japanese aircraft carrier that was part of the fleet that was headed to attack Pearl Harbor.

"And then, over the news, a report on the radio the next morning, we heard they attacked Pearl Harbor," said Callander.

On that that fateful day, 2,403 military and civilian personnel died. Some of them were Callander's closest friends. ​

"We got in the next day to Pearl Harbor and seen all the destruction and everything else," said Callander. "I knew then, we were at war." ​

That war would eventually send Callander to fight in North Africa, Italy and Normandy Beach on D-Day, which marked the beginning of the end of the war. That's also where so many paid the ultimate sacrifice. ​

It's that sacrifice by Americans at Pearl Harbor that Callander continues to talk about, especially to the younger generation that is willing to listen and understand the gravity of that day. ​

"It's made me realize the sacrifices and the magnitude of everything that they've done," said Matthew Graham, a student at Westminster Christian Academy who plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps when he graduates from college.

"It's really important that we keep their values and follow their example," said a fellow student, Holly Hiller, who recently had the opportunity to meet Callander and other veterans from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

At 99 years old, Callander knows he is running out of time to share stories to students like Graham and Hiller and also honor those who died during that surprise attack 78 years ago.

His hope is that his message will be carried on to future generations and that we never forget the gravity of that day.

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