Everyday heroes

LIHUE — Chili, hot dogs, macaroni salad — typical foods for the Fourth of July cookout.

“Yes! He eats them all,” said Kathleen Murguia to Norvin Olivas of the Kauai Veterans Council. “He’s 103 years old, but still likes to eat everything.”

Murgia is the daughter of Gabriel Cataluna, the oldest known surviving veteran on Kauai, and was in the serving line of the annual Veterans Roundup hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council at the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue.

Mahalo Ke Akua is the oli penned by Jim Jung, Chaplain of the American Legion, Post 54, Kapaa.

“We give thanks for being able to enjoy Independence Day,” Jung said. “I’m going over to the Kauai Hospice ‘Concert in the Sky’ following this. I have more than a hundred of the miniature American flags we distributed during Veterans Day to pass out to young people with a history and education of what the flag means.”

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi said veterans deserve respect and gratitude for making Fourth of July celebrations possible.

“I take time out to thank you for your services,” Kouchi said. “My father-in-law is at the emergency room as we speak, but I had to come here to thank you for what you do that enables all of us to enjoy this day.”

He said veteran services are invaluable.

“These services enabled us as a family to be able to fix my father-in-law’s home so he can live independently,” Kouchi said. “I apologize for having to cut my visit short because I have to return to the emergency room where my wife Joy is caring for her father.”

Charlene Burgess of the Veterans Administration Community Based Outpatient Clinic said there was a great deal of interest in veterans benefits.

“Some of them haven’t used services for a while and wanted to re-enroll,” Burgess said. “There were a few who needed to sign up, and a lot of people just needed to know what kinds of services are available for them.”

The roll call of veterans of different wars by Kauai Veterans Council Commandant Ed Kawamura demonstrated the contribution of the armed forces in preserving the freedom being enjoyed by Americans on the Fourth of July.

Veterans from the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm took their turns going through the line for a Fourth of July lunch.

“Of the 13 Filipino soldiers recruited to serve in World War II from Kauai, I’m the only one left. I’m 91 years old,” Sixto Tabay said. “The others all died.”

Although billed as closing at 3 p.m., Aida Cruz of the Kauai Veterans Center asked attendees to keep the stadium-side parking area clear so veterans and their families could enjoy the fireworks from the Kauai Hospice Concert in the Sky.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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