Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hawai'i: America's newest Vietnam memorial

Once more, I am going to deviate from my regularly scheduled posts. I wrote earlier about my trip to The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to participate in the dedication of the country's newest Vietnam memorial. I was privileged to meet Max Cleland, the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Former Senator and Vietnam War hero Cleland oversees the commission's 24 memorials around the world. These are the only memorials entirely funded by the government. Secretary Cleland, a triple amputee, Silver Star awardee and former head of the Veterans Administration attended the ceremonies and was the first of several speakers at this event.

Sec. Max Cleland speaking to the crowd.
While Sec. Cleland was speaking about the importance of this memorial and the service and sacrifice of vets, their families and people who love them, he was interrupted by a fly over of Vietnam era aircraft. An 0-2 Skymaster, 0-1 Birddog, an OH-6 LOH and the famous UH-1H Huey roared over and Max quipped," I didn't think they'd be able to find a Huey that still flies!"

Vietnam era aircraft flyover. 0-2 Skymaster, 0-1 Birddog, OH-6 LOH, UH-1H Huey
I was also thrilled to meet Mary Jacobs who designed the new memorial. Mary, also, designed the World War II and Korean War memorials at the same site more than 40 years ago. This, however, was the first dedication that Mary, who will be 90 years old in December, has been able to attend. Standing in the press area I had a good view of all of this and was especially touched to see her wipe away a number of tears during the dedication.

Present, too, was Bob Armbruster who actually built the memorial from Mary's plans. He talked at some length about his trepidation about being able to get it just right. Without reservation, I can tell you that he nailed it!

Mary Jacobs, the artist, and Bob Armbruster who constructed the memorial from Mary's work.
Keynote speaker, Senator Daniel K. Akaka spoke about his own service during WWII and how that allowed him to attend college and later serve as a teacher and principal in the Hawaiian education system. He was appointed to serve out the Senate term of another Hawaiian hero, Spark Matsunaga upon his death and was subsequently reelected to serve for a total of 36 years.

Sen. Daniel Akaka
Following a number of military musical numbers, the unfurling of the Colors, and a rendition of TAPS another flyover took place. This time, F-22 Raptors screamed overhead in the Missing Man formation, where one plane drops out of the formation signifying the lost man. It was an extremely impressive and emotional moment.

Upon completion of the ceremony, numerous groups paid tribute, laying wreaths at the base of the 70 steps that lead up to the memorial. Among these were the usual veterans service organizations, but also, a group from the Philippines, one from Japan, a Free Vietnam Group in traditional Vietnamese garb, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Club, and Vietnam Veterans of America to name but a few.

Combat Veterans M.C.
I could probably go on and on about what a wonderful and very emotional event this was for me. When I learned of it last March while visiting to photograph the few Hawaiian Vietnam memorials I have been able to locate, I thought that there was no way I would ever be able to get back. It would just not be possible to afford to attend. The more I thought about it over the ensuing months the more I began to think that I could not afford not to attend. A variety of circumstances, including the granting of a press pass all led to the final decision to attend. I am so grateful that I did. The only other dedications I have ever attended were that of the Wall in D.C and the Maryland Memorial a number of years later. So, it seems fitting to me that I was at the first, if you will, and at the last. The last in the sense that Hawai'i was our 50th state and the the 50th state that I visited on this journey. Now that all 50 have been recorded, I will continue to travel to new ones as I find them and post these to the this site as appropriate.The journey is complete, but not yet over. As I discover new sites, I will continue to honor them here.

We were ALL there.


These are just a few of the pics I was able to capture. I will post some more, including a number of the new memorial, in the very near future.

Max Cleland, a personal hero, and your intrepid photographer in front of the WWII portion of the Honolulu Memorial. BTW, The Honolulu Memorial is the proper name for this site and it is located at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Above, I wrote as if this project was ending! Not the case, I still have dozens and dozens of sites from many states waiting to be posted here. So, return often as, I will continue to post every 5th day at 9:00am well into the foreseeable future.

1 comment:

  1. Love these pics! Can't even pick one to say "especially..." They are all great, and very moving to me.