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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Last updated: 9:14pm

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USS Arizona bombing survivors to share experiences with UA community



Lauren Bruner, 93, was a crew member on the USS Arizona when the ship was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. Bruner spent seven months in the hospital with burns on 70 percent of his body, before serving another four years in the military during World War II.

One of 10 USS Arizona survivors, Bruner will be visiting the UA this weekend to share his story.

The UA will hold a series of events between Thursday and Sunday to commemorate those affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II.

The USS Arizona Reunion Association worked with the UA’s Naval ROTC unit to bring Bruner and Donald Stratton, also a USS Arizona bombing survivor, to campus for the USS Arizona Ceremony on Sunday.

Bruner will be on campus Thursday to talk to the community about his experiences and visit the Student Union Memorial Center, which was named and designed after the USS Arizona and is home to one of two bells that were on the ship.

Ed McGrath, a writer and documentary filmmaker who’s working on a book and documentary about Lauren Bruner, said UA Libraries Special Collections Archivist Roger Myers will be showing Bruner newspapers that were printed on the USS Arizona, for the crews, in 1941.

“Lauren will be able to actually read … or look through some of those old newspapers from his ship,” McGrath said, “and it will be the second time in his life that he did that.”

Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant, director of marketing and public relations for UA Libraries, said Special Collections will be adding Bruner’s oral history to its collection of USS Arizona materials. Sykes-Casavant said she was thrilled when she found out about the opportunity to record Bruner’s story because multimedia is an area that Special Collections can improve.

Having the opportunity to get video and audio recording of Bruner’s experience will be a unique addition to the collection and will be available for current and future scholars and researchers, she added.

“Mr. Bruner’s firsthand accounts of the events of that day can’t be told by many other people,” Sykes-Casavant said. “It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the university as a community to celebrate what this man has done and his story and his history.”

Bruce Grissom, U.S. Navy commander and associate professor of Naval Science, said Sunday’s ceremony will be the 60th and last reunion in Tucson for the survivors since their numbers are diminishing. The ceremony will honor those who survived the bombing of the USS Arizona, those who sacrificed their lives during World War II and those who serve in the military today.

Grissom said it’s important to continue to remember the events that led the U.S. into World War II and changed the course of history.

“For us to continue to remember those who were at Pearl Harbor, those that served not only during World War II but in many conflicts, to continue to honor that service and that sacrifice is a great thing to teach,” Grissom said.

Michael Schaller, regents professor in the Department of History, said as there are fewer survivors, commemorating them takes on a “poignant significance.”

“It was the beginning of such a terrible war,” Scheller said. “It wasn’t just a one day thing, but it was kicking off multiple years of global fighting, and memorializing that day is also a way of honoring those who served in the military throughout the second World War.”

The UA Veterans Alumni Club will also host a memorial on Saturday at the Student Union Memorial Center Rotunda to honor those who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who served in World War II. Natasha Crawford, chair of the club, said the event will feature guest speaker Colonel Michael Kuhn, professor of Naval Science for and commanding officer of the UA’s NROTC, among others.

Crawford said having events in honor of the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which is Saturday, shows how much military support the UA and the community provide. Having a survivor on campus will help the community better understand what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, Crawford added.

“People can really get a better understanding of the events when it comes from a survivor, from someone who experienced it,” Crawford said.

Bruner will wear the Purple Heart medal he received for being wounded on the USS Arizona when he visits campus, McGrath added.

McGrath said Bruner is looking forward to sharing his story with the campus community and seeing artifacts in the student union that commemorate the USS Arizona, especially the two flags that were the last flags flown on the ship before the attack.

“It’s seldom that in anybody’s life they have the opportunity to actually meet a true or real American hero,” McGrath said, “and Lauren Bruner is that kind of American hero to the highest standard.”

Talk by Lauren Bruner, USS Arizona bombing survivor
Thursday at 12:20 p.m.
• UA Student VETS Center, on the fourth floor of SUMC

“Remembering the Fallen.”
Saturday at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• Student Union Memorial Center Rotunda, on the first floor of the SUMC

USS Arizona Ceremony
Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
• UA Mall (Parking is available at the Second Street Garage, 1340 E. Second St.)

- Follow Stephanie Casanova @_scasanova_


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