LIHUE — Teresa Caires said her aunt, Anne Martha Rapozo, is buried at Kauai Veterans Cemetery, and her gravestone does not have any indication of her service.
“My dad wanted something done a long time ago,” Caires said. “She was married to my uncle, Ernest Caires, whose service is recorded. But there is nothing about my aunt.”
Teresa Caries was helping at the Women Veterans Workshop Saturday at the Kauai Veterans Center, where women who have served, and are serving in the U.S. military, could come together for a day about Veterans Affairs benefits, networking and fun.
Under the theme of E Hui Like Mai Na Wahine Koa ‘O Kauai, or Join Together Women Warriors of Kauai, Caires said she did research on her aunt and put together a poster that will be featured in the Kauai Veterans Museum.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Shirlene Dela Cruz Santiago Ostrov, born on Oahu, was keynote speaker. She said retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, one of the event organizers, inspired her when things were not going well.
“When I joined the Air Force, it was at a time when there weren’t that many females,” Ostrov said. “That is when I met Mary Kay Hertog, and when things got rough, I would tell myself, ‘Somewhere out there, there is a general doing this.’”
Anne Martha Rapozo, daughter of Antone and Rosalia Rapozo of Kilauea, served with her younger sister Jennie in the Women’s Air Raid Defense of the Hawaiian Islands, 7th Fighter Command, USAF 581st Signal Corps Division, during World War II.
The W.A.R.D. operations on Kauai started on Sept. 14, 1942, less than a year following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Anne, then 24, and Jennie, 18, worked with other young women as telephone operators, radio operators, and plotters whose primary objective was to protect the Hawaiian Islands by tracking and plotting ships and aircraft within a 60-mile radius around Kauai.
Although aimed at women veterans and women serving in the armed forces, men dropped in to see what was being offered by the vendors, who had information on self-defense techniques, wellness, yoga, healthcare and domestic violence.
Johnette Chun, representing the U.S. Air Force, was pleased with the flow of people through the veterans center.
“There will be more,” Chun said. “This is the seed, and we’re happy with the response from women. We can only put things out there, the rest is up to the people.”