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Milpitas veterans share thoughts on the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On December 7, 1941, just before 8am, Japanese forces launched a surprise aerial attack on a U.S. naval base called Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. According to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 218 army service members, and 68 civilians were killed, making for a total of 2,403 American lives taken that day. About 1,100 Americans were injured.

This marked a pivotal moment in world history, due to the fact that after this incident, the U.S. made the decision to join World War II. 

As America looks back and remembers the lives lost at Pearl Harbor, The Beat reached out to military veterans in Milpitas to get their perspectives…

Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran, who served six years with the Air National Guard, shared with us via text that “The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a pivotal moment where the evil Japanese empire made their fatal mistake in striking the United States and Americans in Hawai’i. Through my military travels, I have seen in person how our Country mobilized on our West Coast, Oahu, and Guam. We salute WWII veterans for their heroism forever and always, knowing they stopped the evil from reaching our mainland.” 

Mayor Tran also serves as City Council Liason on the Veterans Commission in Milpitas.

Liliana Ramos is also part of the Veterans Commission, and is currently serving as Chair.  She served in the U.S. Air Force and the California National Guard for a total of 33 years. 

Said Ramos, “As Americans, we need to also remember how after that attack, Americans showed their patriotism and courage — coming together to fight the war against fascism. They fought it overseas and here at home. These Americans showed us by example how we can come together as a country and fight for a common cause.”

She added, “Although many of the heroes of WWII are passing away, we cannot forget the courage that they showed to protect their country. December 7th is a day when we remember these brave men and women who not only fought the war, but who came back and made a difference for our country. The military men and women of today stand on the shoulders of these American heroes.” 

Margie Jackson has headed up the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program at Milpitas High School for the past 5 years. Before that, she worked in Vallejo, at Jesse Bethel High School, where she headed up another NJROTC program for just over a decade. She served in the military for 34 years, reaching the rank of Lieutenant for the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Lieutenant Jackson expressed the wish that the Milpitas community would find more ways of recognizing veterans and the service they’ve given to our country. She believes that if the veteran population in the city were larger, there might be more opportunities for recognition:

“Sometimes I think service people here don’t necessarily get the attention they deserve for giving their lives to serve the country,” said Jackson. “A lot of them, especially during World War II, they’ve passed away or are very old now. But I won’t ever forget their service. I know the men and women who served at Pearl Harbor are proud of their service…” 

Phil Coneeny, who has been a resident of Milpitas for 50 years, served in the Navy during World War II.

“The anniversary of Pearl Harbor should be remembered by everybody in America,” Coneeny said to The Beat. 

At 95 years old, Coneeny has vague memories from around the time when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place. He was 15 when it happened. However, less than two years after that infamous day, at age 16, he enlisted; he began officially serving at 17. Two guys in his neighborhood had been drafted, which got him thinking about enlisting:  

“I was young and patriotic, and I decided I wouldn’t wait to be drafted; I joined,” Coneeny said. “I was one of those young fellas with the thought that I was going to go into this war, so that there would never be another war in the world.”

He then sighed, “Boy was I wrong.”  


Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self” and “Magic Within: Womb-Centered Wisdom to Realize the Power of Your Sacred Feminine Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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