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Unveiling Pearl Harbor mural highlights solemn ceremony
Veterans standing in front of the Pearl Harbor mural at Manteca High are, left to right: JROTC instructor and Chief Petty Officer (ret.) David Torres, Bruce Bradley, Bob Gonzales, Jay Scalf, Shawn Winston, Tom Liggett, Harold Hodges, John Aguilar, and Rocky Wilson. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

It lasted just a few minutes during the noon hour.

But the brevity of the program at Manteca High on Wednesday commemorating the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941 served its purpose – to remember the brave souls who faced the wrath of the enemy on that “day of infamy” which officially brought the United States into World War II.

There was no Pearl Harbor survivor among the special guests. Chief Petty Officer (ret.) David Torres, whose JROTC students led the short but solemn ceremony on campus, was unable to find one survivor in the area that he could invite as a special guest. But more than half a dozen local World War II veterans came to attend the special program whose highlight was the unveiling of a Pearl Harbor-themed mural designed and painted by the students enrolled in the Color and Design class of art Matt McDonald.

The roughly 3x6-foot painting joined another patriotic-themed mural hanging on the upper south-facing wall of the Dorothy Mulvihill Speech Arts Theatre which is the building on the northeast corner of East Yosemite and Garfield avenues. Against the backdrop of the American flag flying freely amidst billowing smoke reminiscent of the smoky pall of death that enveloped the island during the bombing were the words: “These Colors Won’t Run. Remember Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941.”

The design was the collaborative idea of the students in the art class, McDonald said. It took his students, mostly juniors and seniors and one sophomore, three months to finish painting the mural, he said.

The idea for the mural came about because “Manteca High is very well known for its murals,” which made the school a perfect place to continue the tradition and do similar art projects for the occasional special moments such as the Pearl Harbor ceremony on Tuesday, McDonald explained.

Manteca High’s award-winning and widely popular mural gallery on campus was the brainchild of recently retired art teacher Kirt Giovannoni.

“They (the students) did a good job,” said National Guard veteran Rocky Wilson of the American Legion Post 149 in Manteca who made sure he took enough photographs of the event and the mural to display at the American Legion Hall on East Yosemite Avenue.

He praised the Manteca High JROTC program’s effort in staging a Pearl Harbor observance “to get the students involved in something like this, to get them to know what’s going on and what the military had to go through” during World War II.

Observances like the one held on Wednesday “make sure these people (in the military) are not forgotten,” said Wilson who was in the service for 41 years.

That is partly the reason for holding the event on Tuesday – to continue instilling in the minds of the students a sense of national pride and responsibility, and to recognize and honor the country’s service men and women, said Manteca High Principal Frank Gonzales.

While there was nobody to share the hell that broke loose at Pearl Harbor during the surprise attack, World War II veteran Jay Scalf shared a few words about being a war soldier at the tender age of 17. He recalled his mother telling him, “If the war lasts long enough, they’ll come after you. And they did.”

He added, “I was not a hero. I was only 17 so I was scared to death all the time.”

He served in the Coast Guard during World War II, and there was the constant danger of falling in the water, he recalled.

“I came close several times, but I never went in (the water),” said Scalf who, after World War II, then went on to serve in the Navy during the Korean War.

Besides Wilson and Scalf, the other veterans who attended the Pearl Harbor remembrance were Tom Liggett, John Aguilar, Bruce Bradley, Harold Hodges, and Bob Gonzales.