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Mayor Mufi Hannemann

Memorial Day Ceremony

May 31, 2010


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 at Punchbowl for the Mayor's Annual Memorial Day Service.


This is the sixth year I have addressed this special gathering, and it never feels routine, stale or tedious. I consider it a great honor and privilege, and indeed a blessing, to be here with you today to preside over this very special observance.


We are especially honored to have with us U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye and his lovely wife Irene, and U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, leading our delegation of officials from all levels of public service; along with top military leaders; members of our diplomatic corps; veterans; current service men and women, and their families.


Needless to say, it took many people working together to put this gathering together. One of my core principles is that we must always show our appreciation for good deeds well done.


Mahalo to all the participants and sponsors, and everyone who helped organize and conduct today's ceremony, especially our city Department of Parks and Recreation, Director Les Chang and Deputy Director Richard Haru, and all the wonderful volunteers who work so hard on this massive undertaking.



A special Mahalo to the Boy Scouts who placed lei at each grave here yesterday, and to the Girl Scouts who did the same at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery.


And Thank You to the thousands of people, especially the schoolchildren and kupuna, who picked the flowers and strung the lei.


We also salute the hundreds of schoolchildren statewide who participated in the annual Memorial Day lei poster contest. We were able to honor the winners recently at Honolulu Hale, where their winning posters were displayed.


Most of all, I would like to thank all those men and women who serve our nation today—especially those deployed on distant shores, far from their homes and loved ones.


We are here today to honor all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and merchant mariners who sacrificed themselves for our nation and our future.


They were our sons and our daughters, our parents, our siblings, our spouses. They came from many places, and many walks of life.


They were our fellow Americans.


They were our people.


And they will always be remembered, especially on this special day.


Many of us were not yet born when the first Memorial Day service was held here at Punchbowl 60 years ago. By that morning in 1950, more than 12,000 Americans had already been laid to rest in these hallowed grounds, mostly casualties of World War II. 


We remember each of them today. And we remember all those who came before them, and all those who followed.


There are so many.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl has many counterparts across our great nation and abroad, from North Africa to Southeast Asia.


The most poignant segment of my latest trip to the Philippines was a Veterans Day visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.


More than 16,000 Americans are interred there, along with hundreds of Filipinos who served alongside U.S. forces during World War II.


Also honored there are another 36,000 Americans who were buried at sea or remain Missing in Action.


We hold a special place in our hearts for each of these fallen heroes, and all their comrades around the globe.


World War II was a terrible ordeal, and we are truly honored to have survivors here with us today, nearly 65 years after the guns were silenced.


That great generation of Americans—many say the greatest—includes the legendary veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


These brave soldiers, mostly Americans of Japanese Ancestry, proved themselves time and again on the battlefields, overcame adversity and discrimination at home, and became some of Hawaii's most revered leaders.


Senator Inouye, we salute you and your generation of American heroes, who exemplify the American spirit of courage, sacrifice and dedication.


Nonetheless, as we have all too painfully come to realize, many more lives would be cut tragically short in the years to come, in places like Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and Yemen.


— Places like Iraq and Afghanistan.


Today we pay tribute also to these fighting men and women for the incredible sacrifices they have made, and we acknowledge a debt that can never be repaid in full.


We honor every one of our veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and our future. And we express our profound gratitude to those who continue to serve our great nation today.


Thousands of Hawaii-based troops are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands more are scheduled to join them soon. Many have already returned from earlier deployments. They truly deserve our appreciation and our respect.


A final thought as I bring my remarks to a close: our quest for peace should never die. As challenging and difficult as it may seem—given the malevolent aspects of humanity, and especially those who prefer hatred over love, prejudice over compassion, and war over peace—we should never lose hope, we should always strive and constantly pray for a world devoid of conflict and turmoil and destruction.


As you know, we in Hawaii deeply value our ohana—our family—for that is what binds us and keeps us together.


Let us therefore today also remember and honor the ohana of our service men and women: their mothers, their fathers, their sisters, their brothers—and their children and grandchildren.


In so doing, I'll conclude with a few stanzas from a poem written more than a century ago, entitled "The Mother of a Soldier:"


"The mother of a soldier—she gave him to her land;


She saw him on the transport as he waved his sun-browned hand;


She kissed him through the teardrops and she told him to be brave;


Her prayers went night and morning with her boy upon the wave.


The mother of a soldier—her comfort and her joy,


She gave her dearest treasure when she gave her only boy;


She saw the banners waving, she heard the people cheer;


She clasped her hands and bravely looked away to hide a tear.


The mother of a soldier—Ah! cheer the hero deed


And cheer the brave who battle 'neath the banner of their creed;


But don't forget the mothers, through all the lonely years.


That fight the bravest battles on the sunless field of tears.


Nay, don't forget the mothers—the mothers of our men.


Who see them go and never know that they'll come back again."


As we honor today all those who have given their lives for our great nation and our future, let us pray for those who serve today—especially those who are defending and protecting our nation and our friends around the world.


May they all return safely to their families and loved ones.


Mahalo. Aloha ke akua. God bless America. God bless us all. Malama pono.