HANAPEPE — Danette Morita was visiting the Kauai Veterans Council Memorial Day Observance for the first time Monday at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery.
She clutched a portrait of her late husband Mark Iwao Morita while she listened to the musical selections provided by David Leong and the Waimea High School band, watched the protocol executed by the Waimea High School JROTC units, and listened to speeches.
Then, Danette kneeled at the grave of Iwao Morita.
“Mark was named after him,” Danette said. “Mark always wanted to come to the services, but he was too ill to make it. He passed in 2017 after losing his fight against cancer. Now, they’re together.”
Danette was among the several hundred people who took time out from the warm sunny weather to honor and remember those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice so others could enjoy freedom in the United States.
Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami contemplated his “worthiness” of delivering a message before so many veterans, and other government officials echoed the message of honor and remembrance.
Capt. Vincent Johnson, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana, quoted The Garden Island newspaper’s May 11 story, “Veteran Not Alone,” as the essence of Memorial Day during his keynote remarks.
“That is the essence of Memorial Day, and a powerful example of the heart of our island,” Johnson said. “Two years ago, I asked you to earn this holiday. Last year, I asked you all to help shoulder the burden of the families left behind. Reflecting on those requests I made, had an obvious revelation. None of you need to be reminded of your duty as citizens. Today, I say with the deepest gratitude of someone who has buried shipmates — Thank you.”
“Our obligation, specifically for Memorial Day, is to remember those who have fallen and did not return,” Johnson said. “However, I feel we have a more urgent task — to care for those that are ‘falling’ and have not yet fallen.”
“In World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and our current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, many returned home with injuries that are invisible to the eye, but just as deadly as a bullet wound,” he said. “Many are slowly dying of wounds inflicted in battle — wounds that left untreated can lead to alcohol and drug dependence, homelessness, and suicide. These are wounds we can help bind. We honor the fallen by helping the falling.”
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, school’s end, and vacations.
“As you head home, perhaps to the beach, or a barbecue, know that you have truly earned this holiday,” Johnson said.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.