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Phoenix-area World War II vet to commemorate milestone virtually

(Photos courtesy of Jack Holder)

PHOENIX – Jack Holder, 98, is a veteran of World War II. He served in the Navy as an aviation machinist’s mate, first class. He witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

And this year, he was supposed to travel from his home in Chandler and return to Hawaii.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Holder was one of a group of veterans invited to take part in a ceremony commemorating the end of the war.

However, due to coronavirus fears, travel was cancelled for the health and safety of the attendees.

“I was sure disappointed when they cancelled that trip,” Holder said.

That trip would have given him a chance to return to Pearl Harbor, where he was on Dec. 7, 1941, when the base was attacked by the Japanese.

“I saw the [USS] Oklahoma turn turtle-up, I saw guys swimming through burning oil in the water,” he recalled.

“I guess the most vivid remembrance I have is thinking ‘God, please don’t let me die in this ditch.'”

That day was nearly eight decades ago, but it’s burned in Holder’s mind.

“It seems like yesterday,” he said. “I can still see it all.”

Even though he can’t return for the commemoration in-person, Holder will still get a chance to experience the event.

A live Facebook watch party will take place Wednesday beginning at 11:10 a.m. Arizona time.

It won’t be the same as going to Hawaii, but Holder is still looking forward to the event. It’s another chance for people to remember the events he experienced firsthand.

“They refer to us as the ‘Greatest Generation,’ but I tell these kids that they could be the next ‘Greatest Generation,'” he says.

“It’s a pleasure to be able to talk to them about what happened.”

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