HONOLULU -- Donald Stratton stood on stage Wednesday morning, saluting sailors aboard the USS Halsey as it navigated its way through Pearl Harbor.
Exactly 75 years ago Wednesday, in this very same place, he nearly lost his life.
Stratton, 94, of Colorado Springs, had just finished eating breakfast aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, when the surprise Japanese attack commenced. When he saw the planes, he ran to his battle station.
During the attack, he suffered severe burns over 60 percent of his body. He spent more than a year recovering from those injuries, but he came back. He reported to the USS Stack as a gunner's mate and continued his service through the end of World War II.
Stratton is one of just five survivors of the USS Arizona still alive today.
He was the only Pearl Harbor survivor standing onstage during Thursday morning's Pearl Harbor 75th commemoration. Dozens of survivors filled the crowd, most of them in their 90s. The oldest survivor is 104.
"Those who survived Pearl Harbor also left us a warning. Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America alert. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," said Admiral Harry B Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Many of these again heroes will never return to the place their lives changed forever 75 years ago. For them, this ceremony was one last thank you.
"We remember your lost shipmates, we salute your service, and your sacrifice and that of your families. And offer you our most heartfelt thanks for all your sacrifice and all you've suffered," said Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of the Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group.