LIHUE — Throughout history, olive trees have been a symbol of peace and resilience. Now, one of those trees is a fixture at the Kauai Veterans Center, representing the legacy of a man whose life was all about serving the state and country he loved.
The tree was planted in honor of former Hawaii Senator, Daniel Inouye, during a dedication ceremony on Friday morning at the veteran’s center. Around 200 people attended the event hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council.
“He used his power to establish peace,” Wichman said. “Also, if you look at the United States seal, the eagle that’s on the seal has arrows in one of its talons and an olive branch in the other,” said Chipper Wichman, chief executive officer and director of the national tropical botanical garden.
Born in Honolulu in 1924, Inouye was a World War II Army veteran. He served in the in the 442nd Infantry Regiment and lost his right arm due to a grenade-inflicted wound in the war.
Inouye was Hawaii’s senator from 1963 until his death in 2012. He was elected to nine consecutive terms over a period of 49 years.
The veterans council considered planting several types of trees indigenous to Hawaii, according to Wichman. However the olive tree seemed to fit Inouye’s personality best.
Wichman said the arrows and olive branch are a symbol of the duality of peace and economic, as well as military, power. Those principles were important to Inouye.
The branches of the olive trees have also long been symbols of humanity’s connection to the divine.
“In Greece, they offered olive branches to deities and then it took root in Judeo-Christianity as a symbol of God’s spirituality,” Wichman said. “Also, they are practical — every part of the tree can be used.”
While the olive tree that was planted on Friday was only a few feet tall, Wichman said it will “grow into a large tree that will shelter the people, just like Sen. Inouye did.”
Among those in attendance were Mayor Bernard Carvalho, a few members of the Kauai County Council, and representatives of Gov. David Ige.
“Anything that realizes the significance of Senator Inouye and promotes his legacy is important to the governor,” said Ryan Kalei Tsuji, senior special assistant to the governor. “He was a mentor to the governor.”
With only one week of planning to bring this event together, Kawamura said he thought it turned out awesome.
For the duration of the event, the sun was out and the weather cooperated with the ceremony.
“I guess he was smiling down at us over this,” Kawamura said. “It’s a community spirit that he developed and the spiritual world gave him a blessing here today.”