HANAPEPE — They died so we can live, said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., Monday during remarks he delivered at the Memorial Day service hosted by the Kaua‘i Veterans Council at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery.
Carvalho’s words echoed those of dignitaries across the country who paused for reflection and remembrance of veterans who paid the price for freedom.
“This is not for veterans who died in the line of duty, but for all veterans who died,” said Capt. Nicholas Mongillo, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana, who before the start of the service, spent time walking through the neat rows of graves.
Miss Kaua‘i Veteran Gabrielle “Gabby” Buist, who celebrated her graduation from Kapa‘a High School last week, also did the same, her arms laden with lei and a tiny American flag.
“I’m looking for my great-uncle,” Buist said. “I really miss him. He used to be the hit of our family reunions.”
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai‘i, said in a release that we honor and remember the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom and our nation.
Several hundred people from all parts of the island took time out to converge at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery to honor and pay tribute to Kaua‘i’s fallen heroes.
Gladys Fujiuchi of Lihu‘e, a leader with the Lonesome Graves project, noted the growing number of graves in the cemetery which recently outlined its plans for expansion and the shells of two new columbarium. The columbarium shells, barricaded by safety orange netting, were barren in contrast to the existing columbarium which overflowed with flowers, lei and American flags.
Those decorations were placed by the Boy Scouts of America, Aloha Council and the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery staff headed by Donovan Travaso, Andrea Abalos and Victor Sasaki. The lei were provided by Gayle Thompson and the students of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.
“On Memorial Day, we honor those who have borne conflict’s greatest cost, mourn where the wounds of war are fresh, and pray for a just, lasting peace,” President Barack Obama said in his presidential proclamation celebrating Memorial Day.
Hirono noted in the past 12 months, three of Hawai‘i’s own keiki o ka ‘aina have been lost in the line of duty: Lance Corporal Christopher Camero of Waimea, Big Island; Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig Vickers of Haiku, Maui; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Viray of Waipahu, O‘ahu.
“I am humbled by the service of these heroes,” Hirono said in the release. “Memorial Day ensures that acts of valor of our service members will not be forgotten. But this should be more than one day of remembrance. It should be lived every day — exemplified by caring for the service members, veterans and military families in our community.”
Tony Elliott of the Kaua‘i Office of Veteran’s Services offered his remembrance of the seven Kaua‘i Missing in Action veterans.
Tom Batey, in delivering his keynote address outlining the history of Memorial Day, said people are able to have their own moment of reflection by participating in the proposed National Moment of Remembrance.
“In honor of all of our fallen service members, the Congress, by a joint resolution, approved May 11, 1950 as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the president issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer,” Obama states in the White House proclamation.
“The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.”
Assisting Norberto Garcia, commander of the Kaua‘i Veterans Council, the Waimea High School Junior ROTC, under the command of Major Victor Aguilar, provided the Saber Honor Unit, the Color Guard and buglers.
The buglers did double duty, filling in with Joanne Parongao and the Waimea High School band in offering up a touching patriotic medley. Parongao’s mother Naoko Ho and the West Kaua‘i Lions Club made sure there were enough refreshments following the service.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.