As the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor approaches Dec. 7, the Peru Veterans Memorial Group, along with several area American Legion organizations, hosted their 43rd annual Pearl Harbor Parade on Peru’s Water Street.
Saturday’s event featured marchers representing branches of the military, local organizers, city officials, Boy Scouts and supporters coming together to pay tribute and remember those who lost their lives during the attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.
“It’s a great event,” said Peru Mayor Ken Kolowski. “Anytime we can salute the veterans and show appreciation for what they’ve done, it’s priceless.”
Participants started the day at the Peru Rescue Station before marching their way to the South Shore Boat Club for a reception featuring music and guest speakers.
Peru Veterans Memorial Group’s Dennis Znaniecki has kept the event going strong after the passing of former founder Hank Ellerbrock many years ago.
“He’s the one who starting putting this on,” Znaniecki said. “He came up to me one day and wanted to stop doing it because the Pearl Harbor Survivors group was disbanding because they were all passing. I made him a promise, ‘As long as I’m still alive we are going to keep this going.’”
Znaniecki said in the early days of the event, it would feature about 150 marching veterans each and every year. However, as the number of participating veterans began to decrease, the amount of public supporters that participate by watching the parade and helping out have continued to grow.
“There’s now probably more people watching than what we have in it,” Znaniecki said. “The word is getting out. In the beginning a lot of people did not know that we were doing this. We are always getting more people coming down now.”
After the group arrived at the South Shore Boat Club, it conducted a ceremonial raising of the flag and heard from the state commander of the VFW while hearing the stories of those who passed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The reception was capped with a traditional 21-gun salute and the ceremonial throwing of a wreath into the river, in remembrance of those who didn’t return home.
Saturday’s service was dedicated to the creator of the wreath, May Gall. She was a Peru native who created a wreath for each ceremony since its inception over four decades ago.
“A few years ago I knew her health was dwindling so we asked her to make five or six of them for us,” Znaniecki said. “This year we have the last one. We are going to have members of her family throw that into the river for us today.”
Multiple TBM Avengers performed a fly-over to close out the day’s events.