COLLEGE STATION, Texas – About 800 guests, students, and military veterans attended a special ceremony to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor at the Bush Library in College Station Wednesday.
The guests honored were President George H.W.Bush, and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, who both served in World War II.
They were among 27 World War II veterans who attended, including Aaron Cook, 94, of Houston, who was a 19-year-old naval airman, stationed on Ford Island alongside battleship row when the Japanese attacked.
“I grew up in one day.” Cook said.
Cook said he and fellow sailors didn’t know who had attacked them at first.
“Nobody had a clue that the Japanese would have the audacity. It was a shock” cook said.
One the same day, Richard Ellzey, 93, was attending Hines College in Jackson, Mississippi, when news of the attack was broadcast on the radio.
“It changed, everything changed when that was announced. People were leaving the campus and enlisting.” Ellzey said.
Ellzey went on to serve as a Marine Corps captain.
The ceremony, began at 7 a.m. Hawaii time, included a fly-over by WWII-era warplanes maintained by Texas Flying Legends, along with music by the Texas A&M Singing Cadets.
There was moment of silence for the 2,400 service personnel lost in the attack.
The ceremony then moved inside for a panel discussion conducted by Fox anchor Brit Hume and featuring Bush biographer Jon Meacham, author James Bradley and Rear Adm. Chip Miller.
The ceremony closed with President Bush and Sen. Dole taking the stage, both men in wheelchairs.
President Bush piloted a Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bomber as a young lieutenant Junior grade. when he was shot down on a mission to the Pacific island of Chichijima in August 1944.
Bush barely avoided capture, but two crewmen aboard his plane were lost. He was rescued by submarine.
Sen. Dole was an Army second lieutenant when he was badly wounded by machine-gun fire in Italy in April 1945, and permanently disabled.
“Pearl Harbor day changed President Bush’s life. It certainly changed my life,” Dole said. “But that’s the price we pay for freedom. And we love our country. We want to keep our freedom.”
Before leaving the stage, Dole was presented with the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.
An exhibit on the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Bush’s war service will be on display at the Bush Library in College Station through Dec. 31.