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Pearl Harbor veteran laid to rest on day he survived attack 76 years ago

Posted at 7:01 PM, Dec 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-07 19:01:04-05

Seventy-six years ago on Thursday, Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,400 Americans.

But thousands more survived, including one South Florida man who was actually laid to rest on the very day he almost died all those years ago.

WPTV was there at the South Florida National Cemetery as family and friends said goodbye to "Pearl Harbor Eddie" as he was known, a fitting service for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Edward Hammond died in September at 93-years-old. He was the last known Pearl Harbor survivor in the South Florida area.

He was just 17 when he served in the U.S. Navy as a chief machinist mate, stationed at the United States Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"Half of his company never came back. And he was on the submarine base which saved his life," said Colleen Harris, Eddie's daughter. "When they first came back it was like they wanted to pretend it never happened."

On Thursday morning, a full ceremony was held for Eddie, complete with a Coast Guard helicopter fly over, a musical taps tribute, and local navy officers presenting a United States flag to his family.

"I have never seen so many giving wonderful people that helped me through this ceremony," said Harris.

Eddie was one of the over 2,000 survivors of Pearl Harbor that are still left in the country.

“Unfortunately, there’s a time limit with all the stories and there’s a history that lives within these folks," said Capt. Larry Watkins of the United States Navy Reserve. "It’s important that we remember the sacrifice and remember what it takes to live the way we live."

His comrades shared stories of the sacrifice he made for to preserve our freedom.

"He was like a father to me. He was kind. He was humble," said Chuck McLaughlin, a U.S. Marine veteran and one of Eddie's shipmates. "Most kids don’t know what an icon is anymore but from pearl harbor and everything we’ve been through since then, he was one of the greatest generations."

McLaughlin added, "He was a gentleman. He was a great representative of Pearl Harbor. He was a sweet man. And to go full circle, from him being in Pearl Harbor to being laid to rest on Pearl Harbor Day was a big plan. So he completed the circle."

Eddie was cremated and interred at the cemetery. He was one of 2,800 veterans laid to rest at the South Florida National Cemetery this year.