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Pearl Harbor survivor commemorates stamp honoring USS Arizona Memorial

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PHOENIX – It’s been more than seven decades since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but 91-year-old Albert Thomas’ memories of that day haven’t dimmed. He wants to make sure other Americans don’t forget the details either.

The Mesa resident visited the state’s World War II memorial Tuesday to help commemorate a USS Arizona Memorial postage stamp.

“It is the best pictorial advertising that we can get for people to remember the events that took place at Pearl Harbor,” Thomas said.

Costing $19.99, the stamp will be used on U.S. Postal Service Priority Express envelopes.

About 25 commemorative stamp designs are released every year, chosen out of tens of thousands of suggestions based on whether the subject is contemporary, timely, relevant, interesting and educational.

“Not everyone has an opportunity to visit Hawaii and see the USS Arizona Memorial in person, but with this stamp they will be reminded of what it stands for,” said U.S. Postal Service Manager John Morgan.

“Let this stamp serve as a small reminder of the sacrifices made by the brave sailors of the USS Arizona and achieve the same goal as the memorial it depicts: to always remember the Arizona,” he added.

Thomas, who served as an Army pilot, said he remembers finishing breakfast in the mess hall and walking out to the patio when he saw a mustard-colored Japanese airplane fly over on a bombing run.

“He was low enough, when he looked out of the cockpit I could see that he didn’t have his goggles over his eyes, that his goggles were over his forehead meaning the cockpit was closed,” he said.

There were tanks nearby but no ammunition to fire on the attackers, Thomas said.

“At that time our units were scattered everywhere,” he said. “We had no company officers.”

Thomas has returned to Hawaii and the resting place of the USS Arizona a number of times and plans to return for the anniversary of the attack this December.

“I want to honor the Pearl Harbor survivors that are no longer with us,” he said. “May they be remembered down to the last man. I say to them, rest in peace brothers, rest in peace.”

Thomas’ daughter Terrell Thomas said with survivors fading away her father is worried people will forget about Pearl Harbor.

“It drifts slowly into the back recesses of people’s minds. They don’t remember it, and he’s afraid of that,” she said.