Young sailor wins Pearl Harbor Day honor

  • Article by: STEVE KUHLMANN , Hearst Newspapers
  • Updated: December 6, 2013 - 7:43 PM

Seaman Yesenia Munoz, 19, will lay a wreath at Arlington, a duty usually bestowed on senior officers.

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Remembrance: Dick Frantz, a member of the York County Veterans Honor Guard, held the flag used for the folding ceremony during the Pearl Harbor/Battle of the Bulge remembrance ceremony in York, Pa., on Friday. Also Friday, the Associated Press released dispatches from the attack, including one that said: “Japanese airplanes today attacked American defense bases at Hawaii and Manila, and President Roosevelt ordered the Army and Navy to carry out undisclosed orders prepared for the defense of the United States.”

Photo: Jason Plotkin • York Daily Record,

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– Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is an honor usually reserved for senior military officers and the president of the United States. Houstonian Yesenia Munoz, 19, doesn’t exactly meet those standards.

But the U.S. Navy has tapped Munoz for that honor Saturday, exactly 72 years after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II.

In remembrance of that day and the American lives that were lost, Munoz, a Navy Seaman and one of five siblings in military service, will place the wreath.

“I am proud,” Munoz said. “To know I’m selected … out of everybody here, it’s me” is overwhelming, she said.

She’s humbled — but she’s also got a sense of humor. “I want everything to be perfect,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t want to be the one that messes up.”

‘Top-notch sailor’

A Navy spokesman said Munoz was chosen because she’s a “top-notch sailor” and because it was thought that the honor would help her “understand the high price many of America’s sailors have paid, and the legacy they have inherited.”

Munoz is the youngest sailor assigned to the Naval History and Heritage Command, which is devoted to preserving the Navy’s history.

A command at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard dating back to the 1800s, the NHHC is responsible for the “preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage.”

“When I first heard that I was going to NHHC I was like, ‘What is that?’ ” said Munoz. “I had never heard of it.”

Originally wishing to be placed on a ship right out of training, Munoz didn’t know what to expect from working in a command that she knew nothing about.

“When I came here, I had to get a tour,” said Munoz. “Everybody here was explaining to me what they do, and what it’s really about.”

Inspired to join up

Within the NHHC, Munoz works as a member of the IT department, providing support for the National Museum of the U.S. Navy as well as the various naval museums around the nation.

“What I do is I make sure that the Navy museums have the equipment they need,” said Munoz. “I just make sure that all of their computers are functioning properly.”

Inspired to join the military by her four older brothers — two of whom joined the Navy, the other two the Marines — Munoz enlisted in the Navy right after her May 2012 graduation from Dobie High School in southeast Houston. All five are still serving.

“I saw my brothers having a great opportunity in the military, so I was like, ‘well I want that too,’ ” said Munoz.

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