LIHU‘E — The love and support of veterans was not overcome by the physical limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wednesday at the dedication and blessing of a mural created by Eagle Scout candidate Christian Lardizabal of the Boy Scout Troop 168, sponsored by the Immaculate Conception Church.
“This is perfect,” said Gen. (ret.) Mary Kay Hertog, commander of the Kaua‘i Veterans Council. “We couldn’t do the annual Veterans Day service because of the pandemic. No one has offered to paint the building, let alone a mural. This mural pays tribute to veterans in all branches of the military, we tried to keep the crowd to 50, had it outdoors, and everyone is wearing a face mask — we did everything, right.”
The love and support for veterans was echoed by Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami and the Kaua‘i County Council who commended not only the artists — Christian Lardizabal and mentors Trysen Kaneshige and Roni Marco — but the Kaua‘i Veterans Center, its founders and current staff who envision the place be where all veterans are welcome.
The short ceremony heralded by the passage of a rumbling contingent of motorcycle riders was joined by visits from Kaua‘i dignitaries like Hawai‘i State Senate President Ron Kouchi, Reps. James Tokioka and Nadine Nakamura, and the Miss Kaua‘i Veteran 2019, Leslie Uri, who is home from college doing distance learning.
Kawakami and the Kaua‘i County Council extended gratitude beyond words as the Kaua‘i Veterans Cemetery, made empty by the pandemic safety and health guidelines, was visited by Kaua‘i United Buddhist Women’s Association and the Lonesome Grave project, Tuesday to provide floral and foliage adornments to graves that would otherwise be empty.
“They followed the Mayor’s Emergency Rules and limited the number of people, but were able to get the job done,” said Rev. Tomo Hojo of the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission. “No more lonesome graves left there. The Veteran’s Day ceremony will not be held this year due to COVID-19, but at least they were able to honor veterans through the offering of flowers. We do not forget those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.”
“That’s not all,” one of the audience members said. “This morning, early, members from the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa were at the Kaua‘i Veterans Cemetery with lei for the graves. And, look at the rainbow over the cemetery — how perfect.”
Tiffany Sagucio, the reigning Miss Kaua‘i Filipina, apologized to Uri for not having her proper regalia.
“I almost forgot, until I read it in this morning’s paper,” Sagucio said. “‘This is a place I need to be,’ I told myself. But I didn’t have enough time to get my crown and gown on in time. We love our veterans!”
Sarah Tochiki closed the short ceremonies with the rendering of “Taps” that wafted on the strong trade winds before the audience was treated to a Grab-and-Go lunch of chili by Dani’s Restaurant and Chinese Pretzels by Elena Camat.