Friday, November 12, 2004


These Wahiawa Elementary School students had a rousing time yesterday as they marched up California Avenue in the Veterans Day parade in Wahiawa.

Residents salute
isle soldiers

Just as they have done on Veterans Day for the past 58 years, military families and other residents lined California Avenue yesterday to honor those who have been called to war.

But this year, Wahiawa's parade was not just about the past.

"We have so many of our servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. It tugs at your heart," said Wahiawa resident Dollie Burton, whose son, Bryan, is a member of the 125th Signal Battalion at Schofield Barracks, which left for Iraq in January and is due to return in February.

"It's been tough," said Burton, dressed in patriotic red, white and blue.

She was one of the hundreds of residents crowding the sidewalks to watch what is believed to be the oldest annual Veterans Day parade in the state. The 1.2-mile parade started at Kaala Elementary School and ended at Wahiawa District Park. More than 40 schools, organizations and military groups participated.

Keshia Holbron of the Waianae High School Junior ROTC held a saber salute yesterday as dignitaries passed to attend the 2004 Governor's Veterans Day Ceremony. The rite was held at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe to honor past, present and future veterans. Seated are members of the World War II Filipino American Veterans with the Ladies Auxiliary, who fought in the Philippines.

The war has had a major impact on the Wahiawa community, with about 10,000 Schofield Barracks Army soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brigadier Gen. Vern Miyagi, commander general of the Hawaii Army National Guard, delivered the keynote speech during a program at Wahiawa District Park after the parade.

"Every war has an ending, but today we recognize and remember those that did not live to celebrate this day," said Miyagi.

"We all take freedom for granted at times, but we shouldn't. We must never forget nor take for granted how precious the gift is. Others are not so fortunate. In many areas around the world, people live under tyranny and oppression. We must cherish our freedom and never forget how we got here," he added.

Hawaii's death toll from the wars rose to 33 last month when seven Kaneohe Marines were killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. About 900 Kaneohe Marines are involved in the fight for Fallujah.

Grand marshal Jim Quinn waved to the crowd yesterday as he went up California Avenue in the Veterans Day parade in Wahiawa.

At a ceremony at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, Gov. Linda Lingle remembered the isle soldiers and all U.S. troops who gave their lives for freedom.

"Freedom isn't free, and that has been brought home dramatically to the people of Hawaii in the recent weeks," Lingle said.

Lingle mentioned Spc. Kyle Kaeo Fernandez, 26, of Pearl City, who was buried at the cemetery a few weeks ago. Fernandez, a 25th Infantry Division soldier, was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 14 when a homemade bomb exploded near his patrol. She also mentioned the seven Kaneohe Marines killed on Oct. 30.

"All of these brave soldiers are part of our extended ohana," Lingle said. "Together the people of Hawaii mourn their loss."

The one-hour ceremony included a 21-gun salute and a missing-man flyover by the Hawaii Air National Guard.

In Wahiawa, Burton spoke of her brother, Raymond Boykin of Noble, Okla., who was shot in the hip while serving in the Army during World War II. She said the holiday is significant to honor veterans like him.

"It lets them know that we haven't forgotten what they did for us. Of course, we won't ever forget," she said.

Nor would today's warriors be forgotten.

"They're fighting for our country. We gotta pray for them," Wahiawa resident Nelson Hernando, 18, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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