They gathered Saturday at the Pearl Harbor Memorial for another ceremony honoring buddies and comrades who perished in the fiery horror of Dec. 7, 1941.
Well into their 80s and even 90s, some have been robbed or their sight and others are confined to wheelchairs.
Yet four survivors of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, plus a handful of friends and loved ones, bundled up, faced the morning chill and assembled at Memorial Park.
They bowed their heads in prayer, offered a few words of thanks, and dwelled on what will happen to the memory of Pearl Harbor.
"Someone is going to have to take care of this monument because some of us are going to take off in the next few years," said 90-year-old Russ Meyne, of Irmo, who was in the Army at Schofield Barracks when the attack happened.
Meyne is among some 40 Pearl Harbor survivors out of 4,100 World War II veterans who live in South Carolina. The ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors are so thin that most of the group's activities are handled by the veterans' children.
For example, Navy veteran Gordon Sparks, with the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, helped organize Saturday's ceremony.
Not all survivors are members of the organization, said Sparks, of Irmo.
"The problem we have is that we usually don't find out about them until we see an obituary," said Sparks, adding that seven Pearl Harbor survivors in South Carolina have died in the past year. "With so many papers around the state we may not find out about everyone."
The Sons and Daughters organization tries to keep Pearl Harbor survivors in touch by holding lunches and other events around the state, Sparks said.
"Sometimes we get five, maybe four, or just three of them together," Sparks said. "If their kids don't bring them, it's just real hard for them to make it."
The next big event for Pearl Harbor survivors will be a ceremony Monday aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
The survivors association expects to have 10 veterans make the trip to Mount Pleasant.
On Saturday, the small gathering at Memorial Park remembered the 25 South Carolinians who were among 2,403 U.S. service members who died in the attack.
Eighty-seven-year-old Bronsil Metz, an Army artilleryman who also was at Schofield Barracks, remembers getting up that fateful morning and walking outside to "admire the beautiful mountains."
But instead Metz saw the first of two aerial attack waves involving more than 350 Japanese aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers.
"I didn't realize what it was until they started bombing Wheeler Field," said Metz, who travels to Columbia every year from his home in Iva to attend the Pearl Harbor ceremony.
"When they circled back, we just got strafed," Metz said. "We had only three casualties - we were lucky."
The Japanese sank four Navy battleships in the attack, including the USS Arizona, which lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
If he hadn't been out of uniform, Frank Winniman, 87, of Columbia, said he would have been aboard the Arizona, which took 1,177 men to their watery graves.
Although he was in the Army, Winniman said he was supposed to have spent the night aboard the Arizona. But he and a friend spent the night "partying," and he showed up at the gate wearing a Hawaiian shirt instead of his uniform, said Winniman, who was 19 at the time.
Winniman had to stay on shore and his buddy headed to the Arizona.
"He's still aboard ship," Winniman said.
Future generations need to know the stories of what happened that balmy Sunday morning 68 years ago, the veterans emphasized.
"We need to remember Pearl Harbor to keep America alert," Winniman said. "We were asleep then, but now we're awake."