Some vets support city plan


POSTED: Thursday, December 17, 2009

I read Fred Ballard's letter with sadness (”;Do we really want to destroy memorial?”; Star-Bulletin, Dec. 4). Fred and I served with five other veterans on the city's Natatorium Task Force. I attended meetings with an open mind. Perhaps I was naive, for I thought that all of us wanted to try to resolve the long-festering issues on the Natatorium, once and for all. I was wrong. I soon learned that a few came not to listen and learn but to espouse preconceived views.

Yes, I was aware of the mayor's position before I decided to serve. But, as an American, and a Korean War veteran, I cherish dearly my independence of judgment. My soul is my own.

So, I read, listened and learned. Consultants and professionals from the city, state and federal agencies presented information for our review and comment.

I learned about the 1981 Waikiki City Task Force headed by Marilyn Bornhorst, former City Council chief, which recommended that the Natatorium site be placed into public beach use and the adjoining mauka area be preserved to honor the World War I Veterans.

After seeing firsthand how closely our soldiers helped one another in Korea, I have a deep and abiding respect for all veterans. I helped veterans for many years with the VA. Today, I serve as officer for veterans' organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Intelligence Veterans. And, in the task force, I strongly endorsed the creation of a new beach at the Natatorium site for our present and future generations; to retain the War Memorial archway at an adjoining mauka area; and to designate the entire area the Veterans Memorial Beach, as a living memorial for all veterans.

It's sad to learn that Fred stated he will not let the mayor's decision be implemented without a battle. First, he should know that veterans don't all think and act alike, like robots. He doesn't speak for me. Second, he should know that the Natatorium has been a constant “;battleground”; ever since it was closed on April 13, 1963. That's over 46 years of inaccessibility to one of our most precious shoreline recreation areas. How sad! And third, if past is prologue, Fred should realize that a “;battle only begets battle”; and will just continue to delay use of the site.

Meanwhile, this precious site will remain unsightly, unsafe and unusable. The Natatorium, to me, symbolizes not democracy in action, but inaction of democracy, and a human folly of the highest proportion. The task force therefore felt that time was of the essence and constructive action must be taken expeditiously. Otherwise, the Natatorium might collapse before long through natural attrition. Your recent editorial is therefore encouraging.

Honolulu resident Edgar Hamasu was on the Natatorium Task Force.