MILFORD — "It was a day that changed the course of history and the destiny of America," said Greg Protsko, commander of Mountain Laurel VFW Post 8612, 77 years after the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Killed on that day were 2,008 sailors, 218 soldiers and airmen, 109 marines, and 68 civilians. A total of 1,143 were wounded.
The ambush shocked the nation and led it directly into World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously declared Dec. 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy."
The following day, the United States declared war on Japan.
Local military groups — the Milford American Legion Post 139, The Tri-State Gung-Ho Detachment 3909 of the Marine Corps League, VFW Post 8612, and the Vietnam Veterans Association — gathered at Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Milford's Kiehl Park in below-freezing temperatures to salute those who fell at Pearl Harbor, and also to remember those who currently fight for freedom.
"On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, let us take a moment to honor and be inspired by all who served and to remember and be motivated by those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting to preserve our nation's freedom," Protsko said.
Following the ceremony, a wreath was set afloat on the Delaware River at Milford Beach by the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans Association as a tribute to those who were lost at sea.
"America had never been so gravely wounded," said Protsko, addressing the crowd. "But Americans refused to stay down. They united together, steadfast, with one goal in mind — to do whatever it would take to defend their home and freedom."