"It's an opportunity to hear firsthand from a hero who served our country," Veterans First supervisor Todd Steffan said of the annual event, which was previously held in person on the LPC campus before the pandemic.
Each year, the college's veteran groups invite a different keynote speaker to share their stories, according to Steffan.
"This is an opportunity to honor our veterans and military personnel and to learn of the sacrifices these individuals have made for our country," Steffan said, adding that as the years pass there are less chances for people to get firsthand accounts of history from senior veterans like Ganitch.
Ganitch, 101, was on the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) at Pearl Harbor naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese forces carried out a surprise airstrike against U.S. ships.
Ganitch -- who said he was just 22 years old at the time -- was a member of his ship's football team and prior to the attack had been getting ready to play a scrimmage match against another ship's team.
"I didn't have time to change clothes or nothing," Ganitch said, adding that he was well protected with all of his football padding on during the attack.
Ganitch said that his ship was dry docked that morning because it needed some maintenance work on the propellers, which meant they were not at their usual post at the base.
"The first attack did not hit us because they knew where all the ships were at, they knew the names of the ships, they knew everything but we were not in our normal place," Ganitch said.
Ganitch said his ship was eventually spotted and hit with a 500-pound bomb in the second attack that exploded two decks below him and shook him but didn't hurt him. "If it had exploded on contact, I wouldn't be here," Ganitch said.
As one of the oldest and last living survivors of Pearl Harbor, Ganitch said he's often sought for speaking engagements at schools and veteran organizations. Prior to the pandemic, he said he was averaging between 30 to 35 speaking engagements per year.
"I talk to anyone who wants to listen to me but mainly schools because kids are the future of our country, so I like to talk to the kids. They're paying attention and they're listening," Ganitch said.
Ganitch said that although shifting from in person events to virtual was an adjustment for him, he doesn't mind as long as he has a way to get his message out to people.
To his knowledge, Ganitch said there are about 40 Pearl Harbor survivors still living and the youngest he knows of is 97 years old. However, he said that he found over the years that not all of the survivors joined veteran associations, so there could be more survivors that he doesn't know about.
During LPC's event, Ganitch is set to share the full story of his experience at Pearl Harbor as well as his time in the Navy before and after the historical moment.
The event is free but registration is required. Visit laspositascollege.edu.
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