MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Madera Community came together to honor and remember the 2,403 Americans killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The attack thrusted the United States into World War II.
The VFW Post 5057 joined Tesoro Viejo in Madera County to present the ceremony at the Tesoro Viejo Town Center Wednesday morning.
It was called Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, coinciding with the date and time of the first attack by Japanese planes.
"Who is more important to our country than our veterans?" CEO of Tesoro Viejo Bob McCaffrey rhetorically questioned.
One of the veterans in the audience was Vernon Schmidt. He remembers Pearl Harbor.
He was 15 years old and heard the news on a grocery store radio.
Three years later, he was drafted and served in World War II, in the 90th infantry division.
"It all happened real quick. Two weeks from leaving the United States, I was on the front lines fighting," Schmidt said.
"Many of us, I believe, owe our being here today to those people who were on their knees intercessing and asking God to bring us home."
Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno was the keynote speaker. She spoke about the adversity this nation has faced.
Moreno said after Pearl Harbor and September 11th, America thought of attacks on our nation coming from outside.
Now, she says our threats come from inside.
"And now I think adversity is more inside of our own hearts. As we don't listen to each other, we don't look out for each other, so we need to have that internal battle, so that we can come back together as a nation," Moreno said.
The event concluded with the Eight Bells Ceremony, which marks the passing of a sailor. Along with a performance of "God Bless America" and a 21-gun salute.
In the audience, students from Hillside Elementary took in the experience to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
"We are raising the next generation of citizens who need to be aware that we have vulnerabilities and that there's conflict and there are times of war and what that means in the end," Hillside Elementary School Principal Rachel Kuhtz said.
81 years ago, 2,403 service members lost their lives, and more than 1,100 were wounded.
For the many stories here in the Central Valley related to Pearl Harbor, click here.