Only 17, Kayla Colacion can only imagine what it must have felt like to be at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
And the Keller Timber Creek junior had her imagination piqued recently when she visited the site of the famous Japanese attack on the Naval base. She performed in a wreath laying ceremony on Dec. 6, followed by leading the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade on Dec. 7.
“Just think about where we were all those years ago and where we are now,” Colacion said. “How many lives were lost, and what can we do to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
“It was truly an honor being there to support our vets who gave so much. I also enjoyed seeing several Young Marines I went to leadership school with and getting to see where they are now.”
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Colacion is a master sergeant in the Tarrant County Young Marines, where she has been a member for seven years. She is also the reigning National Young Marine of the Year, a title that has taken her many places, including Iwo Jima (Japan), Guam, and all across the United States.
“It was definitely special. There’s a great history, and it’s a very different perspective,” she said of Guam.
She also recalled a special visit to Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. During World War II, the Japanese built underground tunnel and bunker systems in and on Mount Suribachi. In February 1945, United States Marines invaded the island and initiated a major battle as it was an important strategic point for the U.S.
“I thought about how they had to climb it, not knowing if it was going to be their last step,” she said. “It’s a beautiful view.
“It’s such a great honor and exciting to be able to travel so many places, meeting so many Young Marines and making great friends.”
Tarrant County Young Marines Commander Luther Hogan said he believes Colacion is the first from the group to be chosen for the wreath ceremony.
“I think we had one in Waco, but I’m pretty sure she’s the first from Tarrant County,” he said. “I’ve been doing for 12 years, and she’s as special as it gets.
“She’s a great motivator. She loves working with younger kids. We’re so proud of her, to be picked from so many for that honor.”
Colacion said she had a dream as a youngster of going into the military when she grew up. Then, one day her stepdad brought home a copy of the “Young Marines Esprit” magazine for her.
“I had to beg my mom to let me join (Young Marines). She was hesitant at first, and then said I had to stick with it,” Colacion said. “And that’s what I’ve done.”
Colacion hasn’t decided if she wants to make a career out of the Marines, but she does want to attend one of the service academies and become a pilot. She said she got the passion for flying after a trip to the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida.
“That was a great experience. It definitely made me realize that is what I want to do,” she said.
“She has earned her right for everything she has,” Hogan said. “Her representation means a lot to all the units in the area. It’s an honor for us, too.”