Letter: Public excluded from ceremony _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Tim Nessmith reads the names of Louisiana members of the military who were killed in the attack as Jimmy Fountain rings a bell for each as veterans and community members attend the USS KiddÕs Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony on Monday, Dec. 7. The observance was held aboard the USS Kidd at 11:55 a.m, which is the exact time in Baton Rouge that the attack occurred in Hawaii in 1941. The event commemorates the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii in which over 2,400 Americans were killed. Among those lost were Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Sr., after whom the USS Kidd is named, and 45 native sons of Louisiana.

Having relocated to South Louisiana a little over a year ago, Pearl Harbor Day 2014 passed by without my participation for the first time in over 35 years.

During each of those previous 35-plus years, I played taps every Dec. 7 for Post 697 American Legion, Sioux City, Iowa, in ALL kinds of weather. Perhaps the most memorable year came in 2010, when the mercury dipped to minus-18 degrees. Inevitably, regardless of the weather, a few hundred brave citizens would show up to pay their respects and participate in the ceremony. A local high school band would brave the cold and snow to provide patriotic music.

This past Monday, my wife and I decided to attend the local Baton Rouge Pearl Harbor Day ceremony on the riverfront. We were both a bit disappointed that the event, being held on the fantail of the USS Kidd, excluded the general public. We found one had to “pay” to actually get close enough to participate. Standing on the concrete levee steps, we strained to hear the proceedings, as canned music blared from somewhere forward in the ship.

Not far from us, schoolchildren, obviously bused in for the event, sat disengaged and disinterested, since indeed, they could hear nothing of the service. I’m guessing they were wondering why they were even there. A teachable moment lost forever, as dozens of uniformed military stood around and could have either stood or sat with these children and at least explained to them why they were there.

Why were there no speakers to pipe the audio to the public standing on the levee? The very people whose ancestors’ tax dollars built the USS Kidd?

I truly hope that in the future, organizers will take these observations under consideration. For Dec. 7, 1941, like Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that belongs to ALL Americans. It should not be a “pay” event. At the very least, perhaps all museum proceeds for the day could be donated to the Disabled Veterans of America?

Peter Hittle