Hawai'i ceremonies mark Veterans Day
By William Cole and Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writers
The white goatee, hearing aid and some wrinkles gave away his years, but former Sgt. Elbridge M. Smith still fits into the Eisenhower jacket issued to him by the Army.
"I came out here largely to honor the men who have given the ultimate for the liberty of our country," said Smith, 89, who took part in a "massing of the colors" by veterans organizations. "Since I'm lucky enough to be a survivor, that's the least that I can do to pay that debt."
More than 400 people, among them veterans wearing garrison caps from World II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, attended the 1 p.m. Veterans Day ceremony to repay that debt of gratitude to members of the armed forces, living and dead, who have done their part for the nation.
A similar remembrance was held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
Maj. Gen. Edward L. Correa Jr., adjutant general for the state of Hawai'i, told those assembled at the state veterans cemetery that democracy is an "extraordinary gift" that must be "protected vigilantly, nourished regularly and maintained without compromise."
"This is what all men and women who have served our country, this great nation in the armed forces, have given to us," Correa said. "Generation to generation, these men and women have been the lifeblood in protecting and nurturing this gift."
"To our proud veterans here today, I say a simple 'Thank you,' " Cayetano said. "To our new generation of young Americans serving in the armed forces, protecting us at home and fighting a war halfway around the world, our gratitude and prayers are with you and your families."
Cayetano noted that a few weeks ago, in anticipation of Veterans Day, the state renamed the H-2 freeway the H-2 Veterans Memorial Freeway.
The governor also took the opportunity to criticize the resolution recently passed by Congress authorizing the president to use force in Iraq.
"The United States Congress, filled with too many members who are more concerned about their political lives than the lives of the young men and women who may be sent to war, has given the president his approval to wage war," Cayetano said.
Hawai'i Washington delegation members U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, and Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka, all Democrats, have been voices of dissent in the Iraq debate. Abercrombie and Akaka were among those attending yesterday's Veterans Day ceremony.
The program also included a Hawaiian chant, blessing of the 29th Infantry Brigade memorial to 29 Hawai'i Army National Guardsmen and Army reservists who lost their lives during the 1968 reserve forces call-up, a 21-gun salute, Taps, and a helicopter fly-over.
Rob Nichols of Kane'ohe attended the ceremony with family members and then visited the grave of his father, Robert, a Marine who survived Iwo Jima and the Chosin Reservoir fighting in Korea. He died two years ago at 72. There are 4,500 veterans and dependents buried at the state cemetery.
Nichols recalled "how proud my dad was having served and how proud he was of his country. He joined the Marines at 17 from a small town in Idaho."
In a Veterans Day keynote address at Punchbowl, meanwhile, retired U.S. Army Gen. David A. Bramlett reflected on how much this country owes those who have been the "guardians of our future."
"There are many ways to serve our country and all are honorable," Bramlett, the former commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, told a gathering of several hundred dignitaries and veterans. "But the veteran has served in a unique role. The veteran was charged to defend the nation, to defend us, to defend our principles, even to death."
Linda Lingle, in her first official public appearance as Hawai'i's governor-elect, told the crowd about an e-mail she received several days ago from Army Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, former commander for support for the 25th Infantry Division (Light). Eikenberry now is the U.S. security coordinator in Afghanistan.
"It reminded me of the men and women serving all over the world that make it safe for us," Lingle said.
Bartlett said those serving now who will be veterans are part of an important cycle. "In the years to come," he said, "others will follow them and repeat the cycle. Our nation will survive as long as that cycle continues."