GARDINER — Native Hawaiian and longtime Mainer Robert Hoe stressed the importance of remembrance during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Wednesday in Waterfront Park.

Hoe, who came to Maine 33 years ago after being born and raised in the nation’s 50th state, told a small group of people who came to the Gardiner waterfront that he was honored to do something symbolic on such an important day.

“Maine is the first state to receive the sun and Hawaii is the last, and we need to try and unite everyone,” Hoe said. “We live in a great nation, and an entire generation went through that time and we need to always remember.”

The former history teacher, wrestling coach and martial arts instructor said most countries wouldn’t have survived an attack like the one that happened Dec. 7, 1941, at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. But instead of falling, Hoe said, an entire generation came forth and defeated Japan, Germany and Italy and rebuilt our nation, those nations and the world.

During the ceremony, the Kennebec County Veterans Honor Guard raised the American flag to half-staff and Brett Raio sang the national anthem. Hoe ended the ceremony by singing taps, a traditional musical piece played during flag ceremonies and military funerals. Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett, police Chief James Toman, members of the Gardiner Fire Department and local Army recruiters attended the event.

Harnett said he hopes that events like Wednesday’s would be a way to unite the country after what he said was a divisive 18-month campaign season.

“Sadly, I think we have a long way to go,” Harnett said. “We have to remember that we are one nation and do everything we can to try and hear the voices we might disagree with.”

The mayor said he was surprised by the lack of coverage about the 75th anniversary of the attacks.

“We tend to treat history in this country in a funny way,” he said. “We think 75 years ago is centuries ago, and that’s not the case.”

Patrick Eisenhart, a veteran and member of the American Legion and the Veterans Honor Guard, said he was at the ceremony Wednesday morning so that those who suffered and died will never be forgotten.

“Too often, their sacrifice and suffering gets forgotten along with that of their comrades in arms serving in harms way in far off lands,” Eisenhart said by email. He said there is a steady reduction in the number of men and women serving since Vietnam and the first Gulf War, leading to shrinking memberships in veterans organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League.

“It becomes even more incumbent for Americans to make it their business not to forget or to distance themselves from veterans and the military family,” Eisenhart said.

Hoe, who taught history for two decades, said he thinks there isn’t enough time spent learning about our nation’s history.

“He who fails to learn history is doomed to repeat it,” Hoe said, loosely quoting the famous words of philosopher George Santayana. “A lot of people have forgotten, and we don’t have to remember these things on just milestones. We should remember every year.”

In some history books, Hoe said, there are only two pages about the Vietnam War, in which more than 58,000 Americans were killed. Hoe thinks that’s not enough and wonders if some of the things the U.S. has done in wartime, such as holding Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II, have an affect on how much of that history is taught.

“We wash our dirty underwear before the whole world,” Hoe said. “We’re not trying to rewrite history; we try to amend it and make it right.”

There are enough problems in this country, Hoe said, that need to be addressed before we start thinking about the rest of the world. He said we need to help our own first.

“We’re risking the futures of our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren,” he said. “We are on the verge, and if we don’t pull ourselves together, we’ll go down and the rest of the world will follow.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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