VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) — There are certain moments that define a nation and shape its future generations. For the United States, one of these moments took place during an iconic battle for control of a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 76 years ago. This is where American Sailors displayed courage and resolve in what would become a scale-tipping victory in World War II.
Multiple naval commands from around the Hampton Roads area assembled at the Naval Aviation Monument Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia, June 7, to celebrate the pivotal victory at Midway and to remember the valiant Sailors who fought in this battle.
"We've inherited a rich legacy from the greatest generation of warfighters who have preceded us," said Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander, Carrier Strike Group 4. "Here and now, we can see the importance of why this heritage is deliberately passed into the hands of the next generation, who now train for war and must be inspired to find new ways of meeting challenges and engaging a complex mission."
The remembrance event included actors who depicted integral figures in the battle, flyovers by a Grumman F4F Wildcat (the aircraft flown during the Battle of Midway) and F/A-18 Hornets, a wreath laying and a 21-gun salute.
The event's guests of honor included retired Capt. Dexter Rumsey, a naval aviator who participated in the Battle of Midway, and retired Senior Chief Gunner's Mate Raymond Monford, who served aboard USS Hammond (DD-412), a destroyer escort ship that was sunk during the battle.
Attendees looked on as the clock was turned back to June 1942, and actors from Learning Curve Entertainment brought history to the present. The audience listened as an actor portrayed Ensign George Gay, the lone survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8), as he shared his experiences during the battle. Then, an actress portrayed a mother of a USS Yorktown (CV-5) Sailor who grieved as the two naval officers on her doorstep told her that her son had given his life fighting for his country, and concluded with an actor portraying Adm. Chester Nimitz as he addressed the press to deliver the news of an American victory in the Pacific.
Whitesell concluded the ceremony by quoting an inscription on a Battle of Midway Monument.
"The monument to the Battle of Midway that stands at the United States Naval Academy has this inscription: 'They had no right to win, yet they did. In doing so they changed the course of the war. More than that, they added a new name, Midway, to the small list that inspires men by example, like Marathon, the Armada and the Marne. Even against the greatest of odds there is something in the human spirit. A magic blend of skill, faith and valor that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory,'" said Whitesell. "Seventy-six years ago our shipmates were on a combat deployment to protect and serve freedom. Let us go forth and remember that we have a sacred legacy to uphold."
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