BRISBANE, Australia - More than 50 U.S. Sailors and distinguished guests attended the Australian-American Association 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea commemoration ceremony at Newstead Park in Brisbane, May 5.
Throughout the service, speakers paid tribute to the special connection between the two countries and the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered a speech and a message from President Barack Obama before laying a wreath at the foot of the Australian American War memorial.
"The United States has no stronger ally than Australia," she said. "Aussies and Americans have fought together and given lives together at every single major conflict over the last 100 years."
Also in attendance was Harry Frey, a former Sailor who served aboard USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of Coral Sea.
"It was great to see so many people gathered together in honor of the men and women who fought during the Battle of Coral Sea," said Frey.
Lexington was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea when the ship was damaged and set on fire by Imperial Japanese torpedo-bombers. Frey is one of few survivors who made it to safety.
"It could've been me, I was just lucky," said Frey. "Right after we came back up from the sick bay to help the doctors, it blew up. I went back up on the flight deck and the guys were abandoning ship. When they were going over the side I kept saying we are going to make it, they are going to salvage us".
"All of a sudden the ship dropped 10 degrees on the port side and I thought she was going to roll then, so we decided it was time to leave."
For Yeoman 2nd Class Robert Raynor, a Sailor assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97), being able to pay respects to the veterans who fought for their country during World War II was a humbling experience.
"I've read about the Battle of Coral Sea quite a few times, but being able to hear about it in person from people that were there was an amazing experience," said Raynor.
Distinguished visitors also laid wreaths at the foot of the war memorial at Newstead Park. The ceremony included a flyover by two World War II aircraft from each country, a Wirraway and a PT-6 Texan.