Gregg Kakesako / GKakesako@starbulletin.com
A proposal by City Councilman Charles Dijou would rename Makalapa Neighborhood Park after the Afghanistan operation in which Lt. Michael Murphy -- a Navy SEAL stationed at Pearl Harbor -- and 18 other servicemembers died.
Honor for heroes advances
At the urging of the parents of a fallen Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor recipient, a City Council committee has decided to rename a softball field after the Afghan operation in which he and 18 other sailors and soldiers were killed.
The Council Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee took the action based on a proposal renaming the 6-acre Makalapa Neighborhood Park in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Pearl Harbor Navy SEAL, who sacrificed his life in Operation Red Wing three years ago to save his team.
City Councilman Charles Djou said Murphy's parents asked that the softball field be named after Operation Red Wing, instead of just one person. Of the 19 sailors and soldiers killed in Operation Red Wing, five were Navy SEALs who were assigned to Pearl Harbor's SEAL Delivery Team 1.
The Aiea Neighborhood Board doesn't want to change the name of the park, which is located near the Aloha Stadium, and instead has recommended that only its softball field be named after Murphy. Djou, an Army Reserve major, said members of SEAL Naval Special Warfare Foundation-Hawaii plan to appear at the April 14 meeting of the Aiea Neighborhood Board to ask it to reconsider and allow all of Makalapa Park be renamed Operation Red Wing.
Djou said if the Aiea Neighborhood Board consents to the change he would amend his proposal when it goes before the full City Council on April 16.
Gene Castagnetti, director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, said the current proposal to name a city park after only one Medal of Honor recipient is "a very narrow and selective proposal, because it does not include all the MOH (Medal of Honor) recipients, either the sons of Hawaii who are MOH recipients or with limited ties to Hawaii such as the late Lt. (Michael) Murphy."
"Castagnetti, a retired Marine Corps colonel, pointed out that just last Monday Army Pvt. Shizuya Hayashi, a member of the 100th Battalion who was awarded the Medal of Honor eight years ago for his actions in a World War II battle, was buried at Punchbowl.
Castagnetti said Djou should be "more inclusive and name the city park the 'Hawaii or Honolulu Medal of Honor Memorial Park', and include all the MOH names on a bronze plaque, paying tribute to those who are from the islands or have ties to Hawaii."
"Another suggestion by Castagnetti was to use a "city park that is more accessible and easy to locate by locals and visitors."
Makalapa Park is located at 99-104 Kalaloa St. It is near a state housing project and close to Pearl Harbor but not easily accessible. It consists of a picnic area, two basketball courts, two volleyball courts, two softball fields and a comfort station.
Djou said he is in "complete agreement" with Castagnetti's suggestion, but that it needs to be researched further.
Djou said he still would rather proceed to try to get the Pearl Harbor park named after Murphy or Operation Red Wing by Memorial Day.
One of the ideas suggested at the Council committee session, Djou said, was placing a plaque honoring all Hawaii Medal of Honor recipients at City Hall. Djou said he hopes to have something in place by Veterans Day.
Murphy was awarded the country's highest medal for valor posthumously in June. He was the first sailor to receive the Medal of Honor from the war in Afghanistan.
Murphy's SEAL team was spotted shortly after being inserted into the 10,000-foot-high Hindu Kush and was pinned down by the insurgents.
A Navy report said Murphy disregarded his own personal safety and moved into an open ravine and calmly provided his unit's location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team before he was killed.
An Army helicopter responding to Murphy's call was shot down while trying to reach the SEALs, killing eight more SEALs and eight members of an Army special operations unit.
Seals stationed at Pearl Harbor who died
Killed during Operation Red Wing in 2005 in Afghanistan from Pearl Harbor's SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 were:
» Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y.
» Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H., an information systems technician.
» Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif., a sonar technician.
» Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev., a machinist's mate.
» Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., a quartermaster.
A total of 31 Medal of Honor recipients are buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Fifteen are from Hawaii. They are:
» Army Pvt. Mikio Hasemoto.
» Army Pvt. Shizuya Hayashi
» 2nd Lt. Yeiki Kobashigawa
» Staff Sgt. Robert Kuroda
» Marine Cpl. Larry Maxam
» Sgt. LeRoy Mendonca
» Army Pfc. Kaoru Moto
» Army Pfc. Masato Nakae
» Pvt. Shinyei Nakamine
» Army Sgt. Allan Ohata
» Army Pfc. Herbert Pililau
» Platoon Sgt. Elmelindo Smith
» Army Capt. Francis Wai
» Army Maj. Benjamin Wilson
» Army Spc. Rodney Yano