“December 7, 1941. A date which will live in infamy.” Ten words that changed the course of American history and pushed a country who sought isolationism into World War II.
The attack on Pearl Harbor damaged or destroyed 20 U.S. ships and more than 300 planes. Airfields were destroyed, and more importantly the loss of life was immeasurable – 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed.
Following the attack and the declaration of war, hundreds of thousands of men and women rushed to enlist in the United States armed forces, many of whom lied about their ages so they wouldn’t have to wait to join the fight.
In the years following World War II, patriotism continued throughout the country and there was an added level of pride for those who served.
Senior Alicia Hudalla learned about this enormous sense of pride first-hand growing with both of her grandfathers who proudly served in the United States Navy.
As a child, Hudalla and her brothers would hear stories or see items from both of their grandfather’s time in the service that they would ask about. They learned what it meant to them to serve America, and gained an extra sense of patriotism.
Joel Patrick “Pat” Choate was 20 years old when he enlisted in the Navy in March of 1951. Out of boot camp he was assigned to a Naval Air Station (NAS) as an Aviation Ordnanceman. Choate’s rate (Naval occupation), was responsible for the maintenance and the issuing of equipment and weapons that would be loaded onto the Navy’s planes.
Choate served abroad in such places as Newfoundland, Reykjavik, Iceland and Morocco during his four years of service.
Choate, who now resides in Michigan, is very blessed and honored to have served his country.
“He is very proud of America and everything that he is a part of,” said Hudalla. “He is very proud of his service and being an American veteran.”
Anthony Hudalla began his Navy career at the United States Naval Academy in 1955. Hudalla graduated from the Naval Academy in 1959 and began his active duty service.
He would serve aboard the USS Roan, which made the first passage through the Saint Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, making port in Port Huron, Michigan where he would meet his future wife. Lt. Commander Hudalla would complete eight years in the United States Navy.
“He is very, very proud to have graduated from the Naval Academy and to have served. He takes patriotism very seriously,” Hudalla said. “He has been involved in every school Veteran’s Day event that we have been a part of and spoke to our classes.”
Hudalla, who now resides in Glen Allen, never misses Alicia’s games, and is always in the same seat. As the Spiders take on Navy this evening, it will be no different as Hudalla will be in his seat. However, he may have a tough time deciding to cheer for his alma mater or his granddaughter’s Spiders.
“I made the rule that he can wear a Navy alumni shirt or his fiftieth reunion hat. Otherwise he has to be in Richmond gear,” Hudalla laughed.
Hudalla may see Wednesday night’s game as another opportunity to face a top-notch opponent, but there is a different feel to this game.
“What that [playing Navy] represents for both of my grandfathers is really special,” said Hudalla. “I think it’s really cool that I have this opportunity to play against someone who is special to both of them.”
Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Alicia for taking time to talk to me about her grandfathers and their service. As a great granddaughter of a WW2 veteran, the daughter of a Navy veteran, and the sister of a U.S. Navy First Class Petty Officer, I would also like to thank Mr. Hudalla and Mr. Choate for their service and their continued support of the military.