Honoring sacrifice


POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Twenty-three soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq or Afghanistan were remembered yesterday as national heroes and also as members of the island ohana in a ceremony at the state Capitol.

;[Preview]  Hawaii Lawmakers Paid Tribute To Fallen Soldiers

Hawaii lawmakers paid tribute to 23 soldiers who died in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan this past year.

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The Hawaii Medal of Honor was presented to families or friends of the fallen men in the solemn event attended by about 150 people. Top military officials joined state legislators on the Senate floor while the soldiers' young comrades in arms joined local residents in the spectators' gallery.

“;Everyone honored today, no matter where they were from, was a beloved member of our ohana. It is important that you know how much we respect their service,”; said Gov. Linda Lingle. “;Honor is a rare and precious quality and it is earned.”;

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said Hawaii recognizes the fallen soldiers as part of the island community.

“;Their names will be etched in our state's shared history,”; she said. “;A piece of our hearts go with the medals going to families in other states. Your tears are our tears, your loss is our loss, your pride is our pride.”;

Michele Delay of Hope Knolls, N.C., brought her sons Nathan, 8, and Dylan, 9, to the podium to accept the medal for her brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class David McDowell, who was 30 when he was killed April 29 in Afghanistan.

“;I wanted to bring them to this so they will associate something good with their Uncle David,”; Delay said after the ceremony. “;They have seen so many tears.”;

Delay and her sister wear tiny medallions with a photo of their brother taken on the day he left for Army duty. “;I never looked at the stories of who was dying every day until he died. Now I notice it every day. No one understands unless they have gone through it.”;

McDowell's father served in the Army and was stationed here when her brother was born, Delay said. The family lived on Oahu for three years.

Retired Army Col. David Brostrom, his wife, Mary Jo, and son Blake, all of Aiea, accepted the medal for Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, 24, who died July 13 in Afghanistan.

Mary Jo Brostrom said the family conducts its personal memorial for Jonathan every Sunday with a visit to his grave at Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. “;He liked to surf, so we usually go to Waikiki, where his father and brother go surfing.”;

Nikki Gibson hugged the framed Medal of Honor as she left the ceremony. Her husband, Army Sgt. Kenneth Gibson, 25, died Aug. 9 in Iraq. She chose not to return to their home state, Virginia, and is earning a degree at Hawaii Pacific University.

“;I try to keep his character alive,”; she said. “;He was a person who reached out to strangers, opened the door for strangers. I try to remember all those good things that he did.”;