LIHUE — If Ed Kawamura Sr. had his way, Kauai would have a veterans memorial expressway, said County Council Chair Mel Rapozo.
Rapozo was joined last week by Gov. David Ige, Capt. Vinnie Johnson of the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility, state Reps. Nadine Nakamura and James Tokioka, Michael Winiarski of the U.S. Coast Guard and others for the blessing of the new highway sign which formalizes the changing of a section of Kapule Highway to the Kauai Veterans Memorial Highway.
“This is not just for Vietnam (War) era veterans,” Kawamura said. “This is ‘thank you’ for all veterans who gave service to our country. This is the first sign in Hawaii where a section of roadway is dedicated to veterans. This is similar to the Kauai Veterans Center, which is a home for veterans and their families — we on Kauai were the first to have one.”
The Rev. Malcolm Carr of Lihue Christian Church officiated over the blessing of the new signage, which was described by Tokioka as a true team effort — the County Council passed a resolution for the renaming before passing the ball to the Kauai legislative team, who walked it through the legislative process.
“We needed the resolution,” Tokioka said. “Nobody on Kauai would fly over just to testify during the hearings. This is truly a team effort.”
Larry Dill of the state Department of Transportation Department Highways Division said these are the largest signs handled by the Kauai division, and many of the components needed to be specially ordered because of their size.
Members of the Kauai Classic Cars club who are also veterans hosted a mini caravan of classic cars once the blessing was done Wednesday at the Kauai Veterans Center.
“We were going to do it on the highway,” said Harvey Maeda of Kauai Classic Cars. “But at this hour, traffic would be a mess. It worked better just driving around the vet center.”
The signs were installed Friday by state DOT Highways Division crews in the section of Kapule Highway between the Rice Street and Ahukini Road intersections.