Veterans Day: a friend found

HANAPEPE — Tears welled in the eyes of Janelle Vea.

Slowly, she made her way to an unmarked headstone, and extended her hand to touch it.

“It’s the first time,” she spoke softly, tears rolling down her cheek.

“He’s my friend. I was in the hospital when he passed away, and I never even knew where he was buried,” she said, her hand never leaving the headstone.

“He took care of me for a long time, until I had to go in the hospital,” Vea said of Edward Remigio.

She had no flowers to offer. All she had was a desire to find out where his final resting place was, and the soft touch of her hands when she finally found out.

Vea was one of a busload of patients from the Wilcox Hospital Day Care program who visited the Hanapepe Kaua’i Veterans Cemetery on the eve of Veterans Day.

Rebecca Williams had a bunch of flowers clutched in her hands, and with the help of Wilcox staff member Mary Rivera, was able to pay tribute to her brother, Paul Prigge, who is also interred at the cemetery.

Donovan Travaso, one of the caretakers at the cemetery, was busy, but took time out of his schedule to help the ladies locate the graves they were looking for.

He walked Williams to her brother’s grave and, without hesitation, extracted the brass flower vase to rinse it and fill it with water for her floral contribution.

Around him, the drone of a mower cutting the grass in preparation for the annual Veterans Day service filled the air.

“We’ve been busy,” Travaso said. “We needed to mow the grass, but they’re having a tournament in Kalawai (Park in Kalaheo), so we had to mow two of their infields before we could start here.”

Added to Travaso’s schedule are two funerals that are taking place prior to the 11 a.m. start of the Veterans Day service at the cemetery today.

The patients from Wilcox Hospital Day Care were not the only visitors, as cars streamed in and out of the parking lot, each one depositing flowers and an occasional American flag on grave sites in the cemetery.

Rivera said Wilcox officials started bringing patients to the cemetery after her brother passed away 12 years ago.

“I never realized how many people had relatives here,” she said.

Travaso said that Boy Scouts will start arriving early this morning to place flags on all the graves in preparation for the annual Veterans Day service that begins at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month.

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