Sixto Tabay snapped to attention in the shade of a shower tree close to the Hawaii Army National Guard rifle squad Monday at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery.
His uniform was gone, replaced by a crisp white shirt, but his cap was still there, his war insignia proudly displayed above the brim.
“I’m 91 years old,” Tabay said. “There were 13 local Filipino veterans who served in World War II. They’re all gone now. I wear the pins to represent them because I’m the only one left.”
The veteran who served in Japan, Okinawa, and eventually the Philippines during World War II was one of several hundred people who turned out to spend time at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery, taking in the annual Memorial Day service hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council.
“I wish everyone in our country would visit a veterans cemetery on Memorial Day,” said Kaulana Finn, delivering remarks from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “This is what it is all about — not the sales at the mall, the specials at the car dealership, or even the barbeques at the beach.”
Capt. Bruce Hay, commander of the the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana, said Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, started from the tradition of decorating graves with flowers from the days following the Civil War in 1866.
The day, May 30, 1868 evolved to include the fallen from all wars, including the Korean War, Vietnam War, and even Iraq.
Peter Rayno of Lihue was wrapping up his visit, noting that it is good to visit the cemetery because sometimes, in the hectic everyday world, you forget those who passed on.
“I saw graves that I had forgotten, they had died,” Rayno said. “I looked at them and remembered.”
Tina Brun of Koloa said she comes to the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery daily.
“Today, they’re having a big game somewhere, and everybody is umpiring,” she said. “Joe is buried close by all of these people who played with him and worked with him in either baseball or softball. Today, with all these people here, they’re definitely having a big game.”