WESTFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Seventy-seven years ago, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing thousands of service members and simultaneously thrusting the United States into World War II.
Today, those lost that fateful day were honored in Westfield.
At this morning's event, Steve Wichrowski tossed this year's Pearl Harbor remembrance day wreath off into the Westfield River.
"[Have you ever done that before?] No, never, first time I was ever asked," Wichrowski explained.
Wichrowski never met his cousin, Frank Wojtkiewicz, the first Westfield resident to die in World War II while serving on board the USS Arizona, but he told Western Mass News that the heroics of his family member were the talk of the holidays growing up.
"When we would go there on Christmas eve, they would show the pictures of him, so I knew what he looked like. [Anything like you?] No, but we're all Polish," Wichrowski added.
The World War II Museum estimates that less than 500,000 of the 16 million who served then are alive today.
Of the dozens in attendance at Friday's observance were Ted Gage, the American Legion Post 124 commander, and past commander Gene Theroux.
When asked if we've forgotten the greatest generation's sacrifice, Gage had but one word.
"Yes," Gage said.
Theroux added, "Pearl Harbor survivors kept re-emphasizing the fact that in their last get-together, their last formal thing, was is that they're disappointed that it's not taught in history."
Both Gage and Theroux remain hopeful that events like these will keep the memory of those lost alive, which is exactly the case for Joe Nangle, attending his first Pearl Harbor remembrance day.
"I want to come down and experience this. It brings back the memories of my father and my uncles and so many other wonderful heroes whose lives changed 77 years ago today," Nangle noted.
A new face at this ceremony - it's exactly what Wichrowski thinks is necessary going forward.
"[What do you hope comes away from today?] That people still remember the day and still come out here every year like they've done in the past," Wichrowski said.