LIHU’E — Kauaians took time out to remember the sacrifices of veterans and their families yesterday.
Governor Linda Lingle, speaking before an audience of several hundred people at Vidinha Stadium, said although her speech was based on a time limit, it was important not to rush, but to remember the sacrifices made by the Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers who recently returned from their deployment to Iraq.
Hundreds of residents and visitors lined Rice Street from the lawn of the historic County Building to Ho’olako Street, many waving American flags in tribute and welcome to the returning soldiers.
Ron Wiley, a radio personality jockey for KQNG radio, had wife Laura Wiley by his side, and shouted out to each passing group from his vantage point at Rice and Kalena streets.
“Thank you, Waimea! Thank you, Kapa’a! Thank you, Kaua’i High!” Wiley said while enthusiastically waving his flags and flashing shaka signs.
Further along the route, Kapa’a High School junior varsity football coach Wayne Watanabe had his family out, and helped his grandson Dylan wave the flag that was just the right size for the toddler.
“These soldiers have been through a life-changing experience,” Lingle told the audience. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives. Stand and cheer for Kaua’i’s 29th!”
Dickie Chang, host for the “Wala’au” TV show, quietly stood off to the side, intently absorbing the words, an American flag clutched in his hands, his head bent in respect and appreciation.
Lingle welcomed the many children who were part of the celebration as well as in attendance, noting that this is a valuable lesson in personal sacrifice to the children, a lesson about doing what you have to do over what you want to do.
This is a time of patience, Lingle said. For the soldiers, it won’t be a seamless integration back to the life they left.
“They’ve been through a lot. You need to understand,” she said, asking that the community members support these soldiers on their return home.
For the members of the families, Lingle asked that they continue to stand proud with the members of
Among the crowd of supporters was Brooke Frasco, who got help from her grandmother, Barbara Frasco, in holding up a “Welcome Home, We Support Our Troops” banner.
Barbara Frasco explained that Brooke Frasco “cannot wait to see her uncle Brandon Frasco,” who was one of the honored soldiers.
The banner was created by students in Miss Ayudan’s kindergarten class at Kekaha School, Barbara said.
“It’s survived a lot. It was in Honolulu when the boys first came home, and it’s here, today, at the parade, here.”
Brigadier Gen. Gary Ishikawa, representing state Adjutant Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, said it is this kind of support that gave strength to the soldiers.
“I can see where they got their strength,” he said. “They are strong because of community support. I could always tell where the soldiers come from because of their smile.”
Ishikawa added that, during an interview with a Hawai’i soldier in Iraq, the general was asked if the Hawai’i soldiers could get a little rice. In response, Ishikawa said, “We got seven tons of rice.”
Kaua’i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste added that this was a time to thank all of the veterans, explaining that when the Vietnam veterans returned home, there was none of this type of community outpouring of appreciation.
Baptiste explained that, on one of his final visits with the Kaua’i soldiers, they asked for pateles.
This prompted him to deliver over a hundred pateles for the soldiers to enjoy before their deployment.
On Saturday, Baptiste welcomed home the soldiers, adding, “No more pateles!”
The event was organized and coordinated by members of a committee formed by workers in the mayor’s office.
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253)