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Otto: Day of Infamy lives on veteran's heart

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 04:47 PM

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Last year, on Dec. 31, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded.

Like many other military associations that had come together after World War II, its membership was dwindling and transportation to reunions was becoming more difficult.

It must be a tough call. For millions of Americans, those war years were defining moments and friendships made were for life.

When the organization was founded in 1958, it had more than 28,000 names of soldiers who had been on the island of Oahu the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when America's place in the world changed forever.

My guess, and it is just that, is if you were to ask a number of people under a certain age today, would you be more likely to recognize Pearl Harbor or Pearl Jam, it would be the latter.

One person who might not be all that familiar with Pearl Jam, but who could tell you more than a little about what happened that day 71 years ago, is Olin Mott.

Olin has been getting a lot of press this month, not just because he recently reopened his tire store on Kennedy Boulevard and still shows up at work while most of us are fooling with that first cup of coffee.

He was honored by the University of South Florida in November for his "Tutor-A-Bull" program, which brings together USF teaching students, Hillsborough County public schools and money from lots of places, but especially his Michelin Golf Classic.

With a strong mentoring program, hundreds of laptop computers and the spirit of this 91-year-old dynamo, the Tutor-A-Bull idea is having a dramatic effect in many elementary and secondary schools.

And Olin happens to be the only guy I know who was not only there that awful Sunday morning, he was among those who fired America's first shots in retaliation.

That morning Olin was a 20-year-old private first class out of Coffee County, Ga., who found himself walking across the parade ground at Fort Kamehameha between Hickam Field and Pearl Harbor. He had been released from the hospital after an attack of appendicitis and was headed for the chow hall to get some real food. He saw the explosions and felt the ground shaking about the same time he saw the Japanese planes making their attack runs.

He and three others ran to a .50-caliber machine gun emplacement and began firing at the planes. Behind them, an ammunition truck exploded and a 500 round box of ammunition slammed into Mott's back.

He says he barely felt it at the time and the group kept firing until the planes headed off.

Olin says it is a day he doesn't like to think about, but 71 years down the road it's still a vivid memory forever etched in his mind.

While certainly not as vivid a memory as Olin's, it is a moment and a lesson we still need to remember in our own minds this December 7.

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