Sixty-nine years ago today was a horrific day in Paul Aschbrenner's life: Dec. 7, 1941.
He was a seaman 1st class onboard the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when it took nine torpedo blows from Japanese planes.
He pleaded with God to let him live. And when he did live, and went on to survive the war intact, he just wanted to go home.
"I wanted to get out," said Aschbrenner, 88, who lives in Derby. "I had no value in medals. I just wanted to be home with my wife."
But today, Aschbrenner and fellow Pearl Harbor survivor Arthur Dunn of Belle Plaine will receive medals that they were entitled to when their military service ended in 1946 and 1947.
The two will receive their medals during a special presentation beginning at 10:55 today at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center on East Kellogg.
The presentation will be part of a special program observing the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It will include Sen.-elect Jerry Moran and VFW Department of Kansas Commander J.R. Plummer as featured speakers.
"These two survivors, what makes them special is that they were involved in the peacetime Navy before war was ever declared," said Jim Denison, a Vietnam War veteran who helped organize today's event and was instrumental in getting the men their medals.
Dunn and Aschbrenner served on the Oklahoma and after the attack served together on the USS Louisville before going on to other Navy vessels during the war.
"When I saw their World War II uniforms, all I could think was, 'Where's the cabbage?' " Denison said. "What I mean by that is where were their medals and decorations? All that was on Paul's uniform was the good conduct medal.
"These men didn't think of it at the time. They never questioned it. But now that they have children and grandchildren, I think they'd like to know their grandpa and dad was well decorated in the war."
The two are among an estimated dozen Kansans still living who were stationed at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack, Denison said.
Dunn was a turret gunner on the Oklahoma. He scrambled to his post when the first torpedo hit the ship.
He remembers how the blast lifted the Oklahoma out of the water. He remembers the noise and how everything on the ship went black. And then, how it rolled over and began sinking eight minutes later.
Dunn will receive several medals and ribbons for his service.
"I think it is pretty nice that somebody went to a lot of trouble to get these things," Dunn, 87, said Monday.
"When I came out, it was time to get out. That's what I wanted to do... just get out. I had a job waiting for me when I got home."
Both Dunn and Aschbrenner also will receive Pearl Harbor commemorative medals.
"I'll enjoy them but I'm not after any special recognition because I've gone through Pearl Harbor," Aschbrenner said. "I just want people to be ready for the unexpected. I always wondered why we weren't ready."
Even now, after all these decades, the memories come rolling back.
"On that day, I think the good Lord was watching over me," Aschbrenner said. "When that ship rolled over at 45 degrees, there was no way of me getting out alive. I was slipping in oil five inches deep. I inhaled it. It was in my eyes, hair, all over me.
"How come I was spared and others taken? I had so many friends on there. It bothers me; I can't forget Pearl Harbor."