TULSA, OK (KJRH) — A Pearl Harbor veteran remembers the attack that changed America, while he grieves the loss of his friend - one of the last survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona.
On Saturday, Lonnie Cook will be buried in Morris. Arles Cole says as far as he knows, that leaves him as the last man standing in the state.
Cole is vowing to keep their memory alive, continuing to tell their story to anyone who will listen.
"Our purpose is to keep America alert," Cole said. "I'll go to schools, churches, anyone who would listen to me, to tell them how important it was."
Arles Cole escaped the attack on Pearl Harbor with his life on December 7, 1941. He was aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia, which was struck by two bombs and seven torpedoes. 106 men were killed on his ship.
"I saw that light, I crawled out that hole, like a rat trying to get out," Cole said. "I literally was saved by God Himself. I really did get a message from the Lord that indicated to me that I had been saved for a purpose."
Years later, Cole realized just what that purpose was. He says it was to keep telling survivors' stories, and even as he becomes the last survivor in the state, that's what he continues to do.
Survivors eventually began finding each other, convening in places such as Tulsa. That's how Cole met Lonnie Cook.
"Strange as it may seem, we wouldn't give up, we wouldn't quit," Cole said. "We began to hang on. We clung together here in Tulsa, first thing I know is here comes Lonnie Cook."
They called themselves the Last Man's Club, but now the survivors in the club are down to just one. But even as Cole stands alone, he's surrounded by friends who want to carry on their story.
"He'll be with us in memory. As the club plans to continue, we will live vicariously through these men who have passed," said Keith Myers, who took over as the Last Man's Club president.
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