'We must remember,' mayor says


POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day is a day to reflect and remember those who protect the country, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.

“;We are here today to remember and honor everyone of our veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom,”; he said, “;and to express our gratitude and appreciation to those who continue to serve our great nation today.”;

Several hundred people, many of them veterans from the country's past wars, turned out yesterday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to remember and honor America's war dead at the mayor's 60th annual Memorial Day service.

The cemetery's 38,000 gravestones were decorated by small American flags and leis donated by island schoolchildren and senior citizens. Families visiting the grave sites of their loved ones mingled with the veterans and dignitaries attending the midmorning ceremonies.

Hannemann joined nearly five dozen military, veteran and service organizations that laid wreaths or floral leis at the cemetery's dedicatory stone.

In his speech, he also paid recognition to Adm. Thomas Keating, who oversees military operations of the world's largest command as U.S. Pacific forces commander. Keating also commands the 7,000 Hawaii-based troops, including 1,700 citizen soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Hannemann added, “;We must especially remember today those who did not return to their ohana, their friends, their loved ones, their community—their home.”;

In singling out Hawaii-born and raised Army 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, Hannemann said the 27-year-old Army officer had just gotten married and earned a master's degree in business administration. He was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Mosul in 2005.

“;His future seemed bright,”; Hannemann said, “;indeed, like so many before him, and so many after—so many we must always remember.”;

Among the dignitaries at yesterday's Punchbowl ceremonies was L. Tammy Duckworth, a 1985 McKinley High and University of Hawaii graduate who lost her legs and the use of her right arm in 2004 when Iraqi insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter she was piloting. Duckworth was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be an assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.