SPONSORED: A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Despite the horrors of the day, the attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) shaped both the generation who survived it and their descendants for years to come.

Emma Guillory of Lafayette knows this. Her grandfather, Birchman “BJ” Breaux of Lafayette was a Pearl Harbor survivor. His experiences that day and in the war that followed have shaped their family, brought them pride and given them an appreciation that remains decades later.

By estimation, less than 3,000 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, are alive today. But, like the Breaux family, the legacy of that day continues.

“The world was turned upside down,” Guillory said of her "Pawpaw," who was a cook in the Army at the time. “You’re suddenly called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was just a Sunday morning in the kitchen for him, getting ready to make breakfast — pancakes.”

After Pearl Harbor, Breaux fought for years in the European Theater.

“They mobilized, and he was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was from a big family of 11 or 12 kids. Several of his siblings were scattered throughout the war fighting. He was dating my grandmere at the time, and I have all the letters they wrote to each other. It is so special and hard to imagine what they did.”

Guillory said remembering those who survived Pearl Harbor is especially important now. To date, the National WW2 Museum in New Orleans estimates 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive.

Rodney Alexander, a veteran and The Picard Group’s senior director of federal affairs is a former congressman who spent years fighting for veterans and continues to work on the lobbying side of Veterans Affairs matters.

“There are so many veterans still today waiting in line to receive services, and we haven’t approached yet the care that we need to give to those that sacrificed so much,” Alexander said.

He pointed to the dichotomy of how very often those who most deserve honor and benefits may just be the very last to ask for it.

“A lot of veterans are men and women who joined because they felt called to duty and they don’t ask for anything — they don’t expect anything. It’s up to us,” Alexander said. “It’s up to everybody to honor veterans.”

From volunteering to put wreaths at cemeteries to attending veteran-centered events and contacting members of state and federal government to demand better for veterans, Alexander said we each have a role in insuring those who serve receive their due.

In families like Guillory’s, the dedication to oral history continues to keep the stories of Pearl Harbor alive, and honor the sacrifices made by those who serve.

“Pearl Harbor shaped the history of our family and our respect for the armed forces and how selfless all these people are — my dad is a Marine,” Guillory said. “A lot of people were touched by the experiences our grandparents went through and it’s important to listen to their stories. I love oral history. It’s important to keep my grandfather’s and other veteran’s stories alive.”

Some of the stories are hard to tell, and some have remained quiet for decades. Alexander said to date, veterans are still receiving long overdue medals and awards, which often opens the door for survivors to share their story.

“I draw back on my experience as a member of Congress when we would make arrangements for veterans to get medals they had never received through the War Department for citations they had,” Alexander said. “Whether we presented it in a formal setting, the office or their home, it was amazing to see the tears flowing down the faces of family members, spouses, children and grandchildren, when they heard the stories they had never heard when the veterans would tell what happened after they received their medals.”

Alexander said improving efforts to educate children today about the details of World War II is important — noting that a visit to the WW2 Museum in New Orleans should be mandatory for every Louisiana student.

“Just to let them know what tragedies their grandparents and great grandparents faced — and the possibility that it can happen again,” Alexandre said. “Many family members just don’t think about it until veterans are in their sunset years of life and begin to wonder where their medals are.”

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