WAYLAND — There was not a dry eye in the house as National Guard Specialist Lauren Michalko reached for the microphone and sang “Letters From War” at the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor at the Wayland American Legion.
The Third Annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Dance and Lunch was made extra special because of it.
The Southern Tier All Star Jazz Band played tunes from the era and some favorites from other time periods.
The Alfred State Voices had their first big concert of the semester at the Wayland American Legion and lifted hearts with beautiful Christmas music.
Post Commander Kevin Mark said this event is a time to remember what happened on that horrible day when we were attacked.
“We keep history alive,” he said. “We have this function for people to have a nice talk, listen to music, and remember.”
Mark said he was pleased to have Alfred State Voices this year.
“We want to keep it local,” he said. “It opens their eyes to what we do.”
There are veterans and war widows who come to the event.
“The people who lost their loved ones can come here to remember that era,” Mark said.
Betty Engel comes to remember her late husband Adam Engel, who served in the US Air Force during WWII.
“I have been to every single one,” she said. “It is a nice tribute to all of our veterans.”
Engel said this event was special, because she was remembering the two year anniversary of Adam’s death.
“He was a legion member here,” she said. “It is nice to recognize them them on Pearl Harbor Day.”
Pearl Harbor was a terrible attack on our shores from the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. It is something that we as a nation still struggle to understand.
There were many young men and women who lost their lives on that day, and all these years later some are still trapped in a watery grave.
“I remember that day,” Engel said. “I was shopping in Hornell when we got the news we had been attacked by the Japanese. Everyone remembers where they were when they got the news. Everyone was affected by the war in some way.”
Adam Engel enlisted shortly after that and served his nation. Two of Betty’s brothers joined as well.
Kay Crossett was a young child when Pearl Harbor happened, but she remembers it too.
“I remember needing coupons to buy shoes,” she said. “That was the one thing that struck me. We needed coupons to buy sugar and gas too. I was in grade school, and my father was a farmer when this happened. I remember all of the men being taken to the war.”
Crossett had to leave school early from September to November in order to help with the farming.
“We had to leave school early to help with the potato harvest,” she said. “We would pick potatoes to help the farmers since all of the young men were at war.
Engel said small towns were a widow's haven, since most of the men did not come home.
Alfred State Voice member Brandon Masterson said this was the first year the club was trying to bring things back together.
“This is our first major gig and we are all really excited,” he said. “We are here to do the best we can. We are excited to show the community what we can do.”
The group had their first concert at Alfred State and invited the Wellsville Elementary to join them.
Specialist Michalko gestured to the care packages that were stacked by the Christmas Tree and told the audience what it means to them.
“I don’t think you guys get to hear from our end how much the boxes mean to us,”she said. “I hope this song gives you an idea. I actually had a box when I came home from deployment. It was a shoe box and it said ‘Letters From War’ on it. It was letters all my parents, family, and little kids from schools had sent us. The tears are real, the thanks is real, and those things mean the world to us, especially on Christmas when we can’t be home with our families. I would like to thank you guys, because you don’t get thanked enough. Thanks for being worth fighting for.”