SUNRISE, Fla. - It was exactly 78 years ago that Arnold Kann awoke on his 22nd birthday to hear the devastating news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
Famously declared as "a date which will live in infamy" by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the surprise early-morning raid on the naval base claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, wounded approximately 1,000 more, and resulted in the United States entering World War II.
Not long after the attack, Kann was drafted into the Army.
"Well, when I went overseas I was in France, Germany, England, Austria," Kann said. "I was a Tech Sergeant and a platoon leader with 40-50 guys under me. You tell them what to do, where to go. Germany's the place where we saw the most fighting. We were in fox holes. They were shooting at us and we were shooting at them. I was always scared just like everybody else."
As part of the 42nd Army's Rainbow Division, Kann's unit was one of the first to liberate more than 30,000 captives from the German's first concentration camp at Dachau on April 9, 1945.
"I was glad I was a part of it," Kann said of his role in the war. "At the time I didn't think of it, but now I'm glad I was a part of it… I felt that I did my duty for my country, and I'm proud of that."
In honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and in celebration of his 100th birthday, Kann will attend his first hockey game and be recognized for his service by the Florida Panthers during the team's matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets at BB&T Center on Saturday night.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1919, Kann lived there for 80 years before eventually retiring to South Florida 20 years ago. He currently lives in Boynton Beach with his 92-year-old wife, Shirley.
"We appreciate everything he's done for this country," Panthers forward Noel Acciari said. "For him to be at his first hockey game, we're going to try and get him a win… We love supporting our troops [in game], tapping the boards and thanking them for everything they've done for us."
Beginning in 2013, the Panthers began honoring veterans like Kann through an initiative known as the "Heroes Among Us" program. Now in its sixth season, the program honors one current or former local service member from any military branch during each of the club's 41 home games.
One of the primary pillars of the organization ever since owner Vincent Viola, who graduated from West Point in 1977 and served in the 101st Airborne Division, purchased the team back in 2013, the "Heroes Among Us" program has honored more than 250 veterans since its inception.
In addition to attending the game, each hero also receives an in-game video tribute, which always results in a standing ovation from the crowd and a wave of stick taps from players.
"The 'Heroes Among Us' program has been made into what it is based on the support that we have from the fans, the front office and even the players and coaches on the benches," said Matthew Smith, who is heavily involved with the program as a community relations coordinator with the Panthers. "Each hero recognizes that the players are also standing in unison just as our fans are when the tributes are unveiled. All of that support just makes the program what it is."
If you'd like to nominate a City Furniture Heroes Among Us Military Hero for the 2019-20 season, click HERE.