SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – 81 years ago today, 2,403 Americans lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wednesday, the nation pauses to remember those who died on December 7th, 1941.

Today, as a nation, we still remember.

In South Dakota, flags have been ordered to fly at half-staff to honor the heroes of Pearl Harbor.

The unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor plunged our country into World War II, the most devastating conflict in history.

At the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance veterans say we cannot forget.

“We have about four or five World War II veterans still members of the post,” VFW member Richard Schwanke said.

Richard Schwanke is a past post commander for the VFW in Sioux Falls.

He says even though he’s a retired Vietnam veteran, he feels he still has a duty to bring awareness to the many sacrifices of our military men and women.

“I think so, that’s probably the reason why I belong to the VFW to remember them and remember our future veterans and take care of them when they come back,” Schwanke said.

Paul Weckman is a retired Navy Captain.

He presented me with a challenge coin, as another retired veteran, and said remembering Pearl Harbor is part of all of us.

“It’s our job to ensure that we educate and we inform them and really and today is one of those opportunities to really showcase and look what happened back in 1941, and hopefully it’ll never happen again, but I think a lot of people take their freedoms for granted,” Weckman said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have statistics for how many Pearl Harbor survivors are still living. But its data shows the number of World War II veterans is rapidly declining.