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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Parade to salute Hawai'i vets

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

For their service, Hawai'i veterans past and present will be saluted tomorrow in a Waikiki parade and outdoor concert at Kapi'olani Park.

The USO Hawai'i event, held in honor of all the state's military personnel, is expected to draw as many as 5,000 men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves.

"This event is about honoring the service and sacrifice of the thousands of military men and women with ties to Hawai'i," said retired Gen. Fred C. Weyand, a former Army chief of staff and chairman of "A Salute to Our Troops."

Organizers said in the tradition of USO events, the free concert will feature top-name entertainment, including headliner vocalist John Legend, as well as the Makaha Sons, Kapena and hip-hop band Seminole County.

USO Hawai'i Executive Director Cassandra Isidro said the tribute coincides with Military Appreciation Month, but also follows some history-making deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those was a year of duty in Iraq and Kuwait, ending early this year, for 2,200 citizen soldiers of the Hawai'i National Guard and Army Reserve.

"This is the first military parade that's happened since the war began," Isidro said. "This is the only opportunity for them to come out and for the community to pay tribute to them."

About 11,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers served in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005, more than 2,200 Kane'ohe Bay Marines are in the two countries now, and 7,000 Schofield soldiers are preparing for Iraq duty this summer.

In the course of that service, 130 service members with Hawai'i ties have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

The 9:30 a.m. parade down Kalakaua Avenue will include 1,600 National Guard soldiers, 550 Schofield Barracks troops, hundreds of Army Reservists, 150 Marines, 145 sailors, 125 Air National Guard members, 50 Air Force personnel and 25 Coast Guard members.

Many will be in battle dress uniforms. The parade also will include about 300 veterans who saw duty in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and in the first Gulf war. The veterans from past conflicts will be traveling in buses.

The parade begins at Fort DeRussy, continues down Kalakaua Avenue, and ends at Kapi'olani Park at about 11:30 a.m. The parade also will feature the Washington, D.C.-based Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the Royal Hawaiian Band, along with the Army's 25th Infantry Division Band, the Navy's Pacific Fleet Band, the Marine Forces Pacific Band, and the National Guard's 111th Army Band.

The Hawai'i Military Vehicle Preservation Association will bring 14 vehicles to the lineup. The Hawai'i National Guard is slated to perform CH-47 and F-15 aircraft fly-bys at about 11 a.m. The CH-47 Chinook helicopters are expected to follow a flight pattern that will take them over the parade route along Kalakaua Avenue, with each helicopter making a single pass over the area. The F-15s will fly offshore.

Nelson Fujio, the parade's organizer, said the event is an addition to a list of big military parades held in Hawai'i, including one in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm.

A 40-foot stage is being constructed in the park for the main entertainment acts, which begin at 1:30 p.m. with Makaha Sons and Kapena. Legend, a Grammy-winning R&B artist, is scheduled to take the stage at about 3:30 p.m. An F-15 fighter flyover is expected.

"We are getting a lot of feedback. The word is out and we're expecting a high attendance for the parade. What that will be, we don't know," Isidro said. As many as 20,000 people are expected at the park.

Food will be available for purchase, and shuttles will run to and from parking areas at Kapi'olani Community College every 15 minutes from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Isidro said major sponsors include BAE Systems, the state of Hawai'i and TriWest Healthcare Alliance, as well as Chevron Hawaii, the City and County of Honolulu, Clear Channel Communications, First Hawaiian Bank, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawaiian Electric Co., The Honolulu Advertiser, Lockheed Martin, Tesoro Hawaii, A&B Foundation, Hawaiian Telcom, Matson and Starbucks Coffee.

For more information, call 836-3351.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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