Memories of the Pearl Harbor attack came flooding back for Navy Veteran Ivan Stewart Thursday.
Stewart was a special guest at the Oklahoma City Pearl Harbor Remembrance event.
He was a 19-year-old storekeeper serving at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
“The building exploded right in front of me and shrapnel and hot air knocked me down and knocked me out, and two minutes later, I got up,” said Stewart of the attack.
Stewart says when he got back up, he helped shoot down an enemy plane, then headed to the USS Oklahoma to save lives.
The veteran calls the sights of 76 years ago, “horrible.”
“The men were jumping off the ship into the oil. The oil was that thick. I tried to forget those days,” Stewart said.
However, organizers of the remembrance event want to make sure no one forgets what happened.
“The children, we need to educate them. We have living history with us every year,” event organizer Master Sgt. Rebecca McGary said.
That history has grown richer. This year, a record 100 previously unnamed USS Oklahoma remains have been identified.
“This is our history and these men served bravely and courageously and did what they had to do at a very young age,” McGary said.
Now in his old age, Stewart says young Americans need more patriotism. While he doesn’t like being called a ‘hero,’ he hopes his story inspires the American spirit.
“I think we've lost a lot of it. So there may be some contribution I’m still making, I don't know,” Stewart said.