More than 250 veterans filled the Elks Lodge 1893 in Manchester to celebrate the Holiday Veterans Gathering on Thursday.
Seated amongst them was 96-year-old Floyd Welch, the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran in Connecticut.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Welch was aboard the battleship USS Maryland stationed in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
"When the bombs came down I was in the washroom. Just going out the door to my locker to get dressed," Welch said.
The then 19-year-old suddenly heard the alarm go off.
"I didn’t even get to put my clothes on when away fire and rescue went. On weekends, we never had drills like that on weekends," Welch said.
But this was not a drill.
Pearl Harbor was being attacked – without warning or a declaration of war – by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
That’s when Welch, of East Lyme, said he made his way up to the deck of the USS Maryland, which was tied to its sister ship, the USS Oklahoma. He saw the Oklahoma had overturned and sailors had jumped into the water.
Welch had to help them survive by getting them onto the USS Maryland.
On Thursday, he was honored at the Holiday Veterans Gathering as the event’s distinguished guest. He was awarded a commemorative Pearl Harbor pin.
"I just appreciate it being able to do my job," Welch said before the crowd.
Welch has been married to his wife Marge for about 70 years and his kids are adults now.
He said 'thank you' to all of the event volunteers who made today extra special for him.