Brendan Keany

Buffalo Naval Park Commemorates Pearl Harbor Attack

Two U.S. Navy veterans honored

December 07, 2017 - 2:51 pm
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by Brendan Keany

BUFFALO - (WBEN) Every year, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, as well as the Erie County Veterans Service office, commemorates the deadly attack that served as an impetus for drawing the United States directly into World War II. On this day 76 years ago, the Japanese executed a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor, an event that killed more than 2,400 American servicemen.

Don Alessi, chairman of the Park, recognized the impact the attack had on Unites States' history.

"As it was recently written, there are certain events, so transformative, so crucial, so important that their imprint is so deep that they will not disappear," said Alessi. "Like the battles at Lexington and Concord, and the fights at Bull Run and Antietam, the attack on Pearl Harbor shaped our country and identity."

Chief Petty Officer Franco Montjoy, who serves as fire controlman for the USS Little Rock LCS-9, says it's important to remember and reflect on a day such as this.

"Today is such a solemn occasion," he said. "It's important that we look back and that we recognize the sacrifices that those sailors and those families made, and to honor the service of our fellow shipmates that were here today. That's always important."

Despite the solemness of the event, there was an opportunity for celebration and recognition, as two U.S. Navy veterans who served on submarines during World War II were honored at the ceremony, something they certainly weren't expecting.

"Being honored was the biggest surprise," said Richard Bondi, a petty officer who served as a Radioman from 1943-1946. "All we knew was that we were coming up to participate as part of the audience."

Both men were honored and happy to receive recognition, but they also shared stories of sacrifice. Chief Petty Officer Robert Stoll, who served as an Engineman from 1943-1986, said his feeling are indescribable being a part of the ceremony to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor, especially with the impending commissioning of the USS Little Rock LCS-9.

"To me, I've seen so many ships commissioned; I've seen ships sunk, all during World War II and everything," said Stoll. "To me, I...just totally...I can't explain it. You probably don't know what happy is, you're not old enough."

Bondi explained his experience at the commemoration ceremony and how he remembers fallen service men and women.

"Being honored humbles us, and me especially," he said. "I can only look back 360-plus shipmates that have lost their lives and 52 boats went down. I had personal shipmates, and we flipped a coin for the USS Shark - I lost the flip, they got the boat, and they went down."

In reference to both Stoll and Bondi, Montjoy said that it's an honor to meet those who have previously served.

"It's always a pleasure to come alongside those who have served before us," said Montjoy. "There's just such a rich heritage in our communities, so it's always nice to pay homage to them."

A wreath was placed as a memorial to conclude the ceremony.

"Less than 4 percent of Americans who served in World War II remain alive today," said Alessi. "However, their events at Pearl Harbor, set in motion, still greatly affect us even as we are here this morning."

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