Standing strong

KAPAA — No question what 6-year-old Zion Rapozo’s favorite part was.

“The Army,” he said, jumping up and down.

As the soldiers marched by during the Veterans Day Parade in Kapaa Saturday, the young man was mesmerized. The balloon-shaped rocket atop a military float caught his eye, too.

“He loves the Army,” said his auntie Janelle Rapozo of Anahola. “And the rocket.”

Around 50 entries paraded down Kuhio Highway on the Eastside before Veterans Day to celebrate early those who served.

Soldiers, past and present, classic cars and band members waved and tossed candy to the thousands of people who lined the street from Kapaa town to the beach park during the annual event now in its fifth decade.

The theme this year honored woman who have answered the call of duty. And on Saturday, revelers and members of the military took a moment to reflect on how far women have come serving their country, considering how many women were relegated to desk work around 60 years ago when branches began accepting them.

“I learned, like Genevieve did, to put your head down and work hard,” said Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, parade grand marshal, about working past stereotypes during her 34-year career with the U.S. Air Force.

Hertog was paying tribute to Genevieve Andersen, who at 96 is Kauai’s oldest female veteran; she served in the Coast Guard during World War II.

Hertog once was passed up for a command post overseas because she “didn’t have experience being a man,” which was seen by male brass as being a deterrent in the patriarchal society. Undeterred, Hertog worked her way up the ladder. But she gave thanks to people like Andersen who opened the door.

“I would say you absolutely did,” Hertog said of Andersen helping her blaze her own trail.

Andersen said she was moved by the tribute to her fellow females-in-arms. She sat in a trailer and waved a flag as part of the parade, and accepted the thanks that poured her way afterward.

“It was great,” she said, flanked people wanting to talk to her. “It really was.”

The parade, hosted by the Kauai Veteran’s Council, rolled north for about a half hour before ending at the park where people mingled, bands played and guest speakers addressed the crowd. During the procession, which started with classic cars cruising slowly under the morning sun and finished with horses clomping past, people sat on lawn chairs or on the curb and waved to the veterans groups passing by.

“I like the military and the horses, it’s really great,” said Bobby Ayonon, who watched with his granddaughters Chloe, 6, and Cruz, 3. “Kauai needs more of this, bring out the people. That’s what it’s all about.”

And it served as a history lesson, too.

“You learn a lot, you learn the history of all the veterans,” said Matthew Simpkins, 16, Boy Scout with Troop 83 out of Lihue. “I respect them and thank them.”

The Kauai Veterans Council is hosting a memorial at Hanapepe Cemetery at 11 a.m. Tuesday in honor of the holiday.

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