The 78th anniversary of the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said would “live in infamy” is fast approaching, and one of the last-living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor got a final tribute last week from TSA officers at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).
Everett Hyland passed away at the age of 96, and his daughter, Holly Saenz, was traveling from Florida to Arizona with her father’s remains to meet family for one final farewell. JAX Transportation Security Manager Andy Schwarz met Saenz at the ticket counter and escorted her to the checkpoint where he turned her over to Supervisory Transportation Security Officers (STSO) Robert Whitfield and Willie Creel, both veterans.
“Whitfield and Creel handled the screening of Mr. Hyland’s remains with the utmost dignity and respect and assisted Ms. Saenz through the screening process without issue,” Schwarz said. “She was so grateful for the help that she told us stories about her dad throughout the entire screening process.”
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, on December 7, 1941, Hyland was a crew member on the battleship USS Pennsylvania, the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, and immediately reported to his battle station when the attack began.
“We took one hit. The one that hit our ship just happened to be where we were,” Hyland recalled.
The 18-year-old was so badly wounded by the aerial bomb that his own friends did not recognize him, the National Park Service said. He spent nine months in recovery and then went back to sea. According to the news report, Hyland volunteered at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center since 1995, sharing his story with visitors.
Whitfield, a 21-year Army veteran, said, “It was an honor to screen this Pearl Harbor survivor’s remains and help his daughter through the screening process. STSO Creel and I assured the remains were screened properly and with dignity. I know the sacrifices Mr. Hyland and his family went through. After hearing some of the life stories, I felt really proud to have assisted him and his daughter on his final journey.”
“I truly feel all veterans deserve much more than we can provide,” said Creel, who is a TSA liaison with the Wounded Warriors program. “This gentleman greatly honored America as well as his family for his dedication to duty. It’s awesome when a child honors their parent in the way Mr. Hyland’s daughter did on this day. She talked of the things he did and places he served all the way through the screening process and continued to speak of how proud she was of him after the screening. I personally appreciate all of the men and women who step up to serve our country.”