PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) - With a personal motorcycle escort, U.S. Navy Commander Anthony Gannerrelli arrived for a special tribute in his honor on Sunday. Reaching 99 years old, the American Legion Post 321 in Plano thought it was time to acknowledge Gannerrelli for his service to his country.
"Your many years are recognized by the North Texas community and this country," said Cary Augustine from American Legion Post 321, as he presented Gannerrelli with the United States flag.
"It's an unbelievable thing. I never expected anything like it," Gannerrelli said.
In 1934, Gannerrelli was a young man looking for work in the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce. Then, one day, a billboard caught his attention. "I see this sign 'Uncle Sam Wants You.' Everywhere you went, he was looking for you," Gannerrelli said. Right away, he signed up for the Navy and was bused to Virginia for training. "The first ship was the U.S.S. Tennessee. I went aboard it in Guantanamo Bay," Gannerrelli said.
Gannerrelli loved his job and moved through the ranks quickly. He was in Pearl Harbor in 1941 when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base. "I did see the first plane that came over. It hit the seaplane base on Fort Island," Gannerrelli said. Gannerrelli lost eight men on his ship that day. After all these years, he remembers the attack like it was yesterday.
Though there were days of tragedy, he also found love along the way. He's been married to his wife Kathryn for 66 years. "I didn't mind being a Navy wife. He would go off and I had two children and I'd stay wherever he left us -- and he'd come back," she said.
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