PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris says those who served during the attack on Pearl Harbor never failed to stand for the national anthem.
His remarks Wednesday at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack generated a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd, with people whistling and hooting.
Thousands gathered for the event, held on a pier across the harbor from where the USS Arizona sank during the 1941 attack.
"You can bet that the men and women we honor today — and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago — never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played," Harris said to nearly a minute of clapping, whistles and whoops.
"Hearing the words 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' means something special for every American, every day," Harris added. "But today — on December 7th — it takes on extraordinary significance, as we're joined here in this hallowed place by World War II veterans and survivors of the attacks on military bases all across Oahu, including right here at Pearl Harbor."
In recent months, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others have knelt through the national anthem to protest police brutality and the treatment of minorities, drawing criticism and acclaim alike. Athletes from many sports, from youth to professional levels, have followed Kaepernick's lead.
Reached later, Pacific Command spokesman Robert Shuford said Harris' comments "speak for themselves."
Harris has been the top U.S. military officer in the Asia-Pacific region since he took over the command in May 2015. He had moved over from the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which he led since October 2013.
In February, Harris described China's militarization of the South China Sea as being "as certain as a traffic jam" in Washington, D.C. At the time he told senators that to believe otherwise, "you have to believe in a flat Earth." U.S. and Chinese diplomats generally cushion their barbs over who is to blame for militarizing the region.
More than 300,000 troops are assigned to the Pacific Command's area, which stretches from the U.S. West Coast to the western border of India.