Even 72 years later, the memories of Dec. 7, 1941, are vivid for the three remaining Kansas City-area Pearl Harbor survivors.
And on Pearl Harbor Day each year, Edmond Russell, Dorwin Lamkin and Jack Carson share their stories so that succeeding generations don’t forget.
Saturday afternoon at Sporting Park, they stood before their largest audience yet as the veterans were honored by a standing-room-only crowd minutes before the start of the MLS Cup.
“This is the most elaborate observance we’ve been to,” said Lamkin, a 91-year-old Mission resident who was a Navy corpsman on the USS Nevada. “This is incredible. I am almost a little embarrassed.”
Traditionally before each home game, Sporting Kansas City honors a military family in conjunction with the performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But with Sporting KC playing for their second MLS championship on Pearl Harbor Day, club representatives invited the veterans and presented each with a commemorative coin.
Before taking the field, they had lunch in the UMB Field Club, where a steady flow of visitors stopped by the table to talk and share their appreciation. Army Air Corpsman Jack Carson, 90, of Overland Park, who was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, was already anticipating his emotions.
“I’m afraid there might be some tears,” said Carson, who also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. “I brought plenty of Kleenex.”
Before arriving at Sporting Park, the veterans took part in their traditional remembrance ceremony at Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission. More than 40 students from Indian Hills and Indian Woods middle schools were in attendance as they also paid tribute to Jess Dunnagan, who was on the USS California and died in May at age 92.
“The school kids want to learn more about it,” said 96-year-old Army Air Corpsman Edmond Russell of Lenexa. “It makes me feel good that people recognize that some of us are still alive. They can relate to us.”
And they commemorate Pearl Harbor Day to keep an increasingly distant event alive even as survivors age and pass on.
“I’ll be appreciative of myself and Jess Dunnagan and guys I thought well of who are not here,” Lamkin said shortly before being introduced on the field.
The finale of what was a whirlwind day was a first for the trio of nonagenarians.
None had been to Sporting Park or a Sporting KC game, but they donned their service uniforms, hats and coats, as well as blue Sporting scarfs.
“I didn’t even know this existed,” Lamkin said. “What a deal. I’m awed.”