COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - He survived the attack at Pearl Harbor and lived to be 104 years old spending his life, sharing his story and educating others. Friday late evening, hundreds came to pay their respects to Navy Lieutenant Jim Downing, who passed away Tuesday.
KRDO NewsChannel 13's Cinthia Maldonado was there as so many honored this American hero.
Retired Lieutenant Jim Downing delivered to the community an experience etched in his memory: a front row seat to a world of war. "My ship took nine torpedoes. The Japanese dropped 40."
He dodged airplanes raining down on Pearl Harbor and his ship, the USS West Virginia. "President Reagan said, ‘Weakness invites aggression, keep America strong,’ and that’s my message to this generation."
Downing told many military stories. His recollection; faith and patriotism. "Remember Pearl Harbor! Keep America strong,” is what won the heart of many.
Because Jim Downing was so loved by the community his son, Don Downing says it was right to allow others to say their goodbyes.
"You know when your dad is 104 he becomes a national treasure and we didn't just want to keep him to ourselves."
Evelyn Alba says Lieutenant Downing gave new meaning to her life! "He said, just remember the four Ds. Discover your gift. Dedicate your gift to the glory of god or a higher calling. Develop that gift so that you can become the best that you can be at it and then deploy it."
Alysa Martin met Lieutenant Downing four years ago and since, maintained a strong friendship.
"I was a huge [into] WWII, so I just wanted to hear his story and everything. I ended up hearing his story and we became really good friends."
Many saying farewell to a legend, whose knowledge gained in 104 years, will continue to live on.
"He was a great man; he's going to be missed by everyone."
Downing was the second oldest known Pearl Harbor survivor and original member of the navigators.
He was the father to seven children and was honored by President Obama and President Trump.