Alexandria, VA – Members of the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) will commemorate the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in ceremonies around the country this week.
Preeminent among these events will be ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. FRA National President Mark Kilgore of Pensacola, Fla., will join other FRA members in paying tribute to survivors and the memory of lost shipmates who perished during the December 7th attack, which marked our nation’s entry into World War II.
The memorial is built over the sunken remains of the ship and is part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the final resting place for those killed and entombed aboard Arizona during the attack. The ship also holds the cremated remains of dozens of crewmembers who were assigned to the ship on December 7, 1941, and ashes of many former Arizona shipmates have also been scattered over the site.
“The USS Arizona Memorial is undoubtedly a hallowed place,” said Kilgore, “but it is especially meaningful for members of the FRA. Our organization has been integral in efforts to preserve the memories of these fallen heroes and, in addition to our financial support for the memorial, FRA members conduct a unique ceremony when cremains are interred by Park Service divers. I’m very proud to represent this organization that continues to honor the service and sacrifice of these men and their families.”
FRA played a significant role in the creation of the USS Arizona Memorial and associated visitor centers. In the late 1950s, Congress authorized construction of the memorial to honor the entombed Arizona crewmen and FRA immediately got involved by encouraging its members and all citizens to participate in the fundraising campaign. The Association offered scale model kits of the USS Arizona to every shipmate who donated to the project. The memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962 and instantly became a solemn national shrine, attracting millions of visitors.
During the ensuing years, FRA maintained its commitment to honoring the Arizona and her crew. The Association mounted a nine-month campaign to fund a scale replica of the vessel, which was unveiled on December 7th, 1967, for display at the USS Arizona Memorial through 1980. (The model is now displayed at FRA’s National Headquarters in Alexandria, Va.)
Because of the memorial’s immense popularity, visitors faced long lines and delays as they waited for Navy transports to take them from the shore to the memorial, which is situated in the harbor. As the need for a shoreside visitor center grew, FRA again got involved. Members of FRA’s Pearl Harbor/Honolulu Branch 46 formed the Arizona Memorial Museum Foundation, which launched a grassroots fundraising campaign to construct a $5 million facility. The Foundation’s efforts netted nearly $1 million in donations from FRA branches, affiliated Ladies’ Auxiliary units and individual shipmates. After more than 10 years of concentrated efforts, the original USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center was dedicated on December 7th, 1980.
FRA was also instrumental in the more recent campaign to expand and renovate the visitor center in time for the 70th anniversary of the attack. What began as an $8 million renovation project became a $56 million construction program when it was discovered that the foundation of the original visitor center was sinking. In the ongoing effort to preserve the artifacts and legacy of this important event in American history, FRA again contributed as a national entity and was the largest donor among contributing veterans’ groups. Additionally, many branches, units and individual shipmates added to the millions of dollars raised to construct the new facility that opened in 2010.
The memories of those lost at Pearl Harbor will also be remembered by other FRA members at ceremonies across the nation, including events at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.; a commemorative service at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; and at various FRA branches around the world.
FRA is a congressionallychartered, non-profit organization representing the interests of current and former enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. As the collective voice for all Sea Service personnel since 1924, FRA speaks on behalf of its members on Capitol Hill. There is no law protecting military benefits, so FRA is here to stand guard. In addition to its advocacy work on Capitol Hill, FRA also sponsors a national Americanism Essay Contest and assists its members with disaster relief grants.
The Association additionally sponsors an Education Foundation that awards scholarships to deserving college students and is a recognized charity in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC Code #80236). For more information on the FRA Education Foundation, visit www.fra.org/foundation.
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