HANAPEPE — Sixto Tabay, 89, was proud to wear the uniform Tuesday.
“President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said if we serve under the American flag, we can wear the uniform,” said Tabay, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1946-1950. “Originally, there were 13 of us who served in Guam and the Philippines. Today, only four are alive, but no one wants to come out.”
Tabay, normally a member of the Kauai Veterans Rifle Squad, was excused from duty but came in uniform because no one else would. The rifle squad was given a break by the Army National Guard.
Several hundred people overflowed the pavilion at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery on Tuesday to honor veterans and people in the military, emphasizing the contributions of women in the military during the annual Veterans Day service hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council.
American flags fluttered in the light wind and the people flocked to the shade offered by trees ringing the cemetery.
“This is an honor to be part of this service,” said Melia Okura, a Waimea High School Jr. ROTC cadet who served as commander of the nearly all-girl color guard in recognition of the Women in the Military theme. “I’m honored to help and be a part of remembering those who put their lives on the line so we can enjoy freedom.”
The annual service is hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council with help from numerous community organizations.
“This is so wonderful to walk in and see all the flags and flowers,” said Wendy Brown of Alberta, Canada who stopped to visit with Gabriel Cataluna, who at 101 years of age, is the oldest living veteran on Kauai. “If we were home in Canada, we would be at the Rememberance Day observance. My grand uncle was part of the first Special Services Force known as “The Devil’s Brigade” which was made up of Canadian and American forces based out of Helena, Montana. We are lucky our trip here this time allowed us to experience this.”
Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, a retired astronaut, outlined the role of women in military.
“There are about 100 women buried here in Hanapepe,” Hughes-Fulford said. “Women have always been in the military, being hired as nurses, cooks, and spies — it was a woman who took messages from Gen. George Washington to his leaders in the field.”
But women were not recognized until World War II which was a turning point because the military needed the help of women. At one point, there were upwards of 400,000 women in the military during World War II.
“It took the Gulf War to bring women, who make up about 15 percent of the military, to the same status as men,” Hughes-Fulford said. “Women were being hit by the same Scud missiles which hit men.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.