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The last Pearl Harbor survivor in Spokane honors the fallen

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 7, 2017, 4:52 p.m.

The Inland Northwest’s last known survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was joined by admirers and supporters for Thursday’s ceremony to commemorate what President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a day of infamy.

Ray Garland, 95, a Marine veteran from Coeur d’Alene, helped Spokane Mayor David Condon place a wreath at a monument to the fallen at Pearl Harbor just outside Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Soft sunlight bathed the crowd while a Fairchild Air Force Base color guard and Spokane police watched over the event attended by dozens of people.

The afternoon began with a luncheon at the Harvard Park Retirement Residence for people affiliated with the Lilac City chapter of Pearl Harbor Survivors. The group was carried to the arena in Spokane Transit Authority’s stars and stripes bus.

Vina Mikkelsen, the widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor, has pledged to continue the annual event.

Retired Air Force Col. Brian Newberry, who is with the survivor group, officiated the ceremony with words of praise for the Inland Northwest’s refusal to end the annual observance. He noted that other communities have stopped the annual commemorations.

“We will never ever forget,” Newberry told the gathering. Newberry, who was commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild, is now executive director of Leadership Spokane. He also sits on the Spokane Public Schools Board.

“This is Spokane at its best,” Newberry said.

“Ray Garland, I honor you for what you do. Thank you Ray Garland for standing tall for America,” he said.

The total fatalities at Pearl Harbor, including civilians, was 2,403.

Garland was stationed on the battleship USS Tennessee, which was moored inboard of the USS West Virginia, and was one of eight battleships at the harbor during the attack.

In previous stories, Garland said he remembers a Japanese dive bomber coming so close to his ship that he could see the pilot’s goggles. He saw the neighboring USS Arizona battleship explode, killing 1,177 aboard.

The horror of that day still lives with survivors like Garland. “I try not to think about it,” he said, adding that he tries to remember the good things.