George Inouye of Kauai’s Westside said he was hurt when he came home from his service in the Vietnam War.
“I am proud to be a veteran. I sent resumes to all the construction companies,” he said. “They called me ‘Baby Killer.’ I felt so hurt. I had no choice — I wanted to come home on the plane, not in a pine box.”
Inouye was one of several hundred people who turned out for the annual Veterans Day service hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe.
“I told my wife I was coming to this service,” Inouye said. “I asked some of my friends to come. I just listened to my heart. One day, it might be someone else here instead of me.”
Capt. Vincent Johnson, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, said that nearly a hundred years ago, church bells rang across Europe to signify the end of hostilities to the war that was to end all wars.
“If only that were true — then today, we would most likely still observe Armistice Day,” Johnson said. “But we live in an imperfect world. Our need for men and women to serve our nation in order to preserve our right to life and liberty continues, undiminished.”
Johnson said despite the presentation of wreaths in recognition of those who have passed, Veterans Day is not intended to be somber. It is a day to be inspired by the example set by those serving in uniform, and those who have honorable and faithfully served our great nation.
“Heroism and heroics can be fleeting,” Johnson said. “While a few people will be a hero to many, it is easy for many — all of us — to be a hero to someone. That someone may be in your family, at your work, or even a stranger who benefits from a kind and unselfish act. Maybe, the greatest tribute to a veteran is not a thank-you. Maybe, the best way to honor a veteran is to malama others.”
Jeffrey Pears, a Marine with the Kauai Hospice, said they were planning on visiting Kauai Care Home following the service to host a pinning ceremony for at least 10 veterans who will be joined by their family members.
J.Q. Smith, another Marine, said he was glad to be in Hanapepe.
“I made it,” Smith said. “Saturday was my 90th birthday so we had a little party. Today, I am 90 years old — and a day. There are not too many of us left. But I want to be back next year, although I’m still not the oldest veteran. That honor belongs to Gabriel Cataluna, 103 years old.”
Gen. Mary Kay Hertog of the Kauai Veterans Council said people often mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day honors all veterans in all branches of the Armed Forces.
“In doing this, we often times miss the families of the veterans,” Hertog said. “We thank them for their sacrifice.”