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Mayor Mufi Hannemann

 

Memorial Day Ceremony

May 26, 2008

 

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl

 

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters: Aloha kakahiaka kakou. And welcome to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific for the Mayor's Annual Memorial Day Service.

 

Decades before the first veterans were laid to rest in these hallowed grounds in 1949, our great nation fought in an epic struggle that was so intense and widespread that it was assumed to be "The War to End All Wars."

 

More than 100,000 Americans lost their lives before the war ended in 1918. Nearly 10,000 men from Hawaii served in our armed forces during the war, and six died in battle.

 

Much of Europe was left in ruins, and the war had also spilled into parts of the Pacific. But Hawaii escaped relatively unscathed. Our remote location helped our island home remain one of the most peaceful little corners of a complex and dangerous world.

 

If only the end of that First World War had truly brought an end to all war.

 

Any illusions that Hawaii could remain an island of tranquility amid a sea of violence, or that our nation could continue to avert its gaze from a brewing storm, were cruelly shattered on December 7, 1941. The bombs and torpedoes that smashed into our anchored fleet at Pearl Harbor shook our home, and our nation, in a way that changed us forever.

 

The desperate days and months that followed brought a series of tragic defeats at Guam, Wake Island, Bataan and Corregidor. Our troops were badly outnumbered, and many were starving, yet they fought harder and longer than anyone could have expected.

 

They must never be forgotten.

 

We are gathered here today to remember and to honor all the men and women of our Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. We are here to recall the incredible sacrifices they have made, and to acknowledge a debt that can never be repaid in full.

 

In a strictly military sense, those early battles of the Second World War were defeats for our nation. But the bravery and grim determination of our armed forces to resist overwhelming odds inspired our people, especially here in Hawaii, who pulled together to meet the challenge. In that sense, our nation achieved a tremendous victory, and ensured we would ultimately prevail.

 

The spirit of our nation was: "Can do."

 

Men from all walks of life answered the call to arms. Too many would never see their loved ones again.

 

Women, too, hastened to take on important duties that our forces depended on, learning new skills and often placing themselves in harm's way.

 

Amazing achievements were not limited to the battlefield. At the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, workers toiled around the clock to repair and outfit our fighting ships.

 

But our nation's final victory in World War II did not come fast, and did not come easy. Nearly four years of fighting took more than 400,000 American lives. Thousands of them were laid to rest here at Punchbowl.

 

None of those brave souls should ever be forgotten.

 

During and after World War II, we also faced battles here at home, against racial prejudice and discrimination against ourselves.

 

While many Americans of Japanese ancestry were fighting gallantly for our country and our future, their own parents were unjustly held in internment camps by a government that viewed them as suspect solely because of their heritage.

 

The bravery and sacrifices of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team are legendary, and dispelled all notions of disloyalty. Veterans of those units went on to become some of Hawaii's most respected leaders.

 

But, regrettably, World War II did not produce an end to armed conflict either.

 

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines have served, fought and lost their lives around the globe: in places like Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

We are here today to remember and to honor every one of them, and to express our gratitude and appreciation to those who continue to serve our country today.

 

Mahalo, Admiral Keating.

 

Let me conclude with a few stanzas from a poem written in a prisoner of war camp during World War II by a survivor of the Bataan Death March:

 

"A soldier is a nobody, we hear lots of people say.

He is the outcast of the world and always in the way.

 

"When a soldier goes to battle you cheer him on the way,

you say he is a hero when in the ground he lay.

 

"But the hardest battle of the soldier is in the time of peace,

when all mock and scorn him and treat him like a beast.

 

"With these few lines we close sir, we hope we don't offend,

but when you meet a soldier, treat him, treat him like a friend."

 

Mahalo. Aloha ke akua. God bless you all. Malama pono.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

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