Longtime Valley Head resident Raymond E. Ringer was just 19 years old when he was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II. He said he was shipped overseas in the Pacific Theatre on Jan. 3 1943. It was just two years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Thursday — the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — Ringer, dozens of other veterans, DeKalb residents and many others gathered at the G.E. Hill Bridge overlooking Little River Canyon in Fort Payne for the eighth annual VFW Post 3128 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony.
Ringer was a high schooler when the war was brought to the frontlines of America on Dec. 7, 1941. World War II had been going on for four years overseas, but the attack on the military base in Hawaii was started the United States’ war effort.
“I was just a teenager out of high school when I was drafted,” Ringer said with a laugh. “I was in the Army, and I was overseas with the combat engineers, and I happened to be attached to the Second Marine Division.”
The base in Hawaii was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, and all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged. All but the USS Arizona were later raised.
On Thursday, Sylvania and Geraldine marching bands performed for the crowd surrounding the bridge and a local JROTC team helped lead the VFW’s eighth annual remembrance ceremony.
After opening ceremonies, VFW life member and event organizer John Keller and Little River Canyon Park Superintendent Steve Black read the 30 names of the men from Alabama who lost their lives aboard the Arizona.
The American Legion Post 5 Honor Guard from Rome, Georgia honored those men with a 21-gun salute, and then the bands played “Taps,” and five Sylvania High School seniors dropped a wreath over the bridge into the water below.
Keller was pleased with the turnout.
“When they first built the bridge and pedestrian walkway, I said, ‘Oh, that’d be the perfect setting for a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Program,’” Keller said. “Well, it’s getting bigger believe it or not.
“It was small at first, but it’s just like anything else. You start something, and you’re not going to have a big crowd, but you just got to keep at it.”
Ringer has lived in Alabama most of his life. He was born in Calhoun County, but moved to Valley Head in 1938. He graduated from Valley Head High School, and then was drafted shortly thereafter.
He said after the war ended he landed in Nagasaki, Japan. He left in February 1946 and sailed across the pacific and landed in Seattle, Washington.
It wasn’t long before Ringer said he made his way back home. He said he went on to become a teacher in the DeKalb County School System. He said he taught “mostly upper elementary education.”
“I started in 1950 at Ider, and I retired from Valley Head in 1960,” Ringer said. “I taught mostly sixth grade, and I was, at one time, principal of Moonlake Junior High when it was a junior high school.”
Ringer said he’s had the opportunity over the past year to travel to Washington D.C. to see the WWII monument and Korean War and Vietnam monuments. He then went on to Arlington National Cemetery.
“It was very impressive,” he said.
But, he said Thursday he was equally impressed by this ceremony in his home state. He liked being able to help remember those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and in the war to follow.
“This is my first time out here,” Ringer said. “I was impressed with it and I’m really glad they’re doing it.”