Hannah Witham, a ninth-grader at Braden River High School, is having a close-up look at the observance of the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
"It's a special feeling, a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Hannah told the Herald by phone Friday.
The attack on the bright, clear morning of Dec. 7, 1941, drew the United States into World War II.
On Saturday, Hannah took part in a wreath-laying service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, The Punchbowl. On Sunday, today, the anniversary, she will visit the memorial at the USS Arizona, which sank in the attack with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen.
"I am looking forward to meeting more of the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor," she said. "I will be able to stand with them during the memorial parade in Honolulu.
In the parade, the Young Marines will be carrying the banners of the 12 ships that were attacked in 1941.
Hannah is one of 141 youth members of the Young Marines from nine states taking part in the Pearl Harbor Day commemoration.
She has been a member of the DeSoto Detachment of Young Marines since age 8. Her father and grandmother were Marines.
Would she consider a career in the military?
"I've thought about it. If I did, it would definitely be in the Marines," she said.
Hannah and her mother, Janene Witham, arrived in Honolulu Thursday.
Hannah is the only Young Marine from Manatee County -- and from Florida -- selected for the observance, said Janene Witham, executive director of Manatee Players.
Hannah worked 2 1/2 months to raise the money to pay for her trip from friends and local veterans posts.
"On our flight over from Phoenix to Honolulu, there was a 99-year-old gentleman who is a Pearl Harbor survivor," Janene Witham said.
"In 60 years, this will be something that she will be able to tell her children and grandchildren about," she added.
Such meetings leave invaluable impressions, noted Michael Kessler, national executive director of the Young Marines.
"We are proud to have been involved in this event from the beginning, and we consider it an honor to play such a critical role," he said. "Like so many historic events, the attack on Pearl Harbor has been all but forgotten in today's history books, and we wish to ensure the legacy of those who were here as history was being made."
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.