“If I have a hero, it’s him,” Ingram said.
On display at the museum in Eastaboga is a pocket-sized Bible stained with blood. George Ingram had it on him when he was killed in the aviation building of the naval base. His brother is committed to making sure people remember that day, and others.
“I’m going to instill in people to keep it going,” he said, referring to the memory of all veterans of foreign wars.
Friday marked the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The day passed quietly in Calhoun County, with no public events marking the anniversary.
Ingram said it irritates him that so few people properly commemorate the event. On TV, news channels play the same grainy footage of smoke billowing out of ships, he said, but no one actually speaks with the veterans who lived through it.
That may be because so few of them are left.
Ken Rollins, a member of the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs, said three surviving residents in Calhoun County witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor: Bill Nestor, George Murray and Harvey Albea. Two other veteran witnesses, Glenn McNeill and Paul Joyce, died recently.
Rollins, who helps organize annual ceremonies in Anniston for both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, said the only local event commemorating Pearl Harbor that he can recall occurred on Sept. 20, 2001, when 600 people gathered in Centennial Park to mark the day.
“We’ve just become complacent,” he said.
In 2010, McNeill, Murray, Nestor and Joyce served as the grand marshals for Anniston’s Veteran’s Day Parade. Nestor, a former officer of the Alabama Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said that until McNeill and Joyce died, the four men met for lunch every month.
“We were like brothers,” he said.
Nestor was a seacoast artilleryman in the U.S. Army and was serving at Fort Barrette in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. He and a group of friends were driving to Honolulu when they came across Pearl Harbor and saw the billowing smoke as they looked down a cliff.
“We were shocked,” he said. “I was just a 19-year-old kid.”
Nestor said he and his friends assumed the ships were sabotaged because few people expected the Japanese forces to attack by air. Nestor said that it wasn’t until a policeman pointed to the sky that he and his friends saw the kamikaze pilots.
Ninety-year-old Nestor said the local group of Pearl Harbor survivors often visited schools to talk about the event, something the four men enjoyed.
“It will surprise you,” he said. “They ask many questions.”
At Bob Ingram’s museum, there’s also a wooden box that held the bottle of champagne used to christen the Navy destroyer named in honor of George Ingram in 1946.
Ingram, 73, was 2 years old when his brother died in Hawaii. However, he said that throughout his life, his mother emphasized the sacrifice his older brother made. That’s a big reason for the museum, he said.
Ingram said school groups often come to the museum. He said he enjoys showing them pictures of the ship named after George Ingram as well as the sailor’s uniform, medals and post cards that he sent home.
“That gives me a chance to tell a little story about my brother,” he said.
Rollins said seeking firsthand accounts of events like Pearl Harbor becomes more important with each passing year.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 1,462,809 living World War II veterans in the United States as of November. There were a total of 16,112,566 U.S. service members in the conflict, and 405,399 were killed during the war.
“I think our schools, churches and parents should pass on to children what that means,” Rollins said. “They should take the time to call them (World War II veterans), send them a card, something to thank them for all they’ve done.”
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_star.