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Pearl Harbor survivor from Aurora returns to Hawaii 75 years after attack

AURORA, Colo. -- Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, and Tom Petso, 94, of Aurora, is among the survivors who's in Hawaii to mark the day.

“Just scared the hell out of me honestly.  Just ... you're frightened, you're a kid, you know.  And here all of the sudden they're shooting at you.  And they didn`t stop,” Petso said.

He was just a teenager, stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield on Oahu, getting ready to play a Sunday morning football game on Dec. 7, 1941.

“At 7:30, we started the football game, and at 8, we looked up in the sky, my God it was a fleet of Japanese.  We knew they weren't our planes.  They were coming right down, and they blew up those planes in no time,” Petso said.

It was the start of the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy that would send the United States into World War II.  In the next two hours, more than 2,300 service men would be killed, another 1,100 wounded.

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On the bombed USS Arizona alone, well over 1,000 men died that day.

Somehow, Petso made it out of Dec. 7. 1941 alive.  He says it put the fear of God in him.

“I became a fairly religious person at the time and I realized the Lord is looking out for me or I wouldn't be here today,” Petso said.

He has returned to Pearl Harbor many times over the years.  He returned this week with a Denver charity that returns war heroes to the battlefields where they once served.

He's not sure how many more trips to Hawaii he'll be around for.  But he knows each of the last 75 has been a bonus.

“Sometimes I'm just thankful I`m alive.  Honest to God I thank Jesus. I could've been killed very easily that morning,” Petso said.