Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Sixty-eight years later, these veterans still honor those who died at Pearl Harbor.

At Pearl Harbor, Jerry Mintz fought back against the Japanese surprise attack by grabbing a 50-caliber machine gun and firing at the planes that strafed the anchored Navy fleet and pulled the U.S. into World War II.

In the 68 years since that fateful day, the former Army Air Corpsman started a family and flew 193 missions into tropical storms for the U.S. Weather Bureau.

And he kept alive the memory of the 1941 attack in Hawaii by serving as president of the Gold Coast Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Now 87, the Plantation resident is engaged in another battle, to recover his strength after a bout with shingles and a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder.

”There aren’t many of us left,” said Mintz as physical therapist Connie Lamons put him through a tiring round of exercises last week at the Springtree Rehabilitation Center in Sunrise.

”We are dying off. And those who aren’t dying are becoming like me — they can’t drive.”

Indeed, earlier this year Mintz and a handful of other survivors association members in South Florida voted to disband the group because of the difficulty of getting together.

Yet Mintz and one other Pearl Harbor veteran, Bill Merz, 86, of Hollywood, did attend commemoration ceremonies Sunday at the Coast Guard station in John U. Lloyd State Park.

”It’s our duty,” said Merz, a retired New York City policeman. ”We do it to remember the guys who didn’t make it.”