KEYPORT — Every year, Wes Carey invites as many Pearl Harbor survivors as he can to a memorial event in Keyport.
Every year, he said, the pool of survivors to invite shrinks.
“We’re losing them pretty quickly,” Carey said. “If someone was 17 years old the day of the attack, they’d be 77 today. And most of them were not 17, so most of them are older than 80.”
That is just one of the reasons Carey believes that Friday’s event, which will be held at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport, is important.
Carey was posted at Pearl Harbor in 1975, which fueled his interest in the attack’s history and significance. He served on the board of the USS Arizona Memorial Museum Foundation, and helped raise $11 million for a shoreside facility that was built in 1979.
Before he retired, Carey was posted at Keyport.
Ever since then, he said, “They’ve been kind enough to let me put on the program.”
The stars of the program, Carey said, are the survivors. The memorial program has hosted as many as 40. He doesn’t know how many will attend this year, but guesses the number could be in the twenties.
“They talk about the events that happened on Dec. 7, 1941,” he said, “and their relevance today.”
After talking to many survivors, Carey has gleaned that message well.
“We must maintain eternal vigilance in order to maintain freedom,” he said. “Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11 both happened on a day that we weren’t prepared for that type of event. Every year, the Pearl Harbor survivors’ message is that we have to be alert. They say the first responsibility of the government is defense.”
The event will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Carey will be the main speaker. Members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will give testimonies about what they were doing when the attack happened.
The Navy Band Northwest and the Kitsap Chordsmen will perform; a second grade class from Enatai Elementary School in Bellevue will sing several military songs.
An honor guard, composed of male and female veterans of foreign wars, will perform a flag ceremony.
Because the radio towers at Keyport were the first to receive the signal alerting the United States to the attack, the North Kitsap Amateur Radio Club has organized an event from 8 a.m. on Dec. 7 to 4 p.m. Dec. 8. The club will set up antennas from the museum building to their broadcast trailers in the museum parking lot and will also put up a 30-foot radio mast. During those 32 hours they will send and receive messages with amateur radio clubs and ham radio operators around the world.
Carey said the event is the second-largest of its kind in the U.S., second only to the memorial at Pearl Harbor itself.
He said, “It’s an important message. Young people, when they come, seem to be the most affected.”
Carey said his involvement has allowed him to meet some special people.
“When they talk to you, you realize that they were there on the very first day of the next four years. And America had a big war ahead of it,” he said.