In the Military
Gregg K. Kakesako

85 with isle ties are eligible
for Hawaii Medal of Honor

The 85 service members with Hawaii ties who have so far been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 would be eligible for the Hawaii Medal of Honor under Act 21 passed by the current Legislature and signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Norman Kukona, legislative aide to Rep. Mark Takai -- the Hawaii Army National Guard officer who introduced the bill -- said an interim legislative committee, headed by Rep. Ken Ito, Sen. Norman Sakamoto and Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, will determine the design of the new medal and will certify that the recipients were legal residents of Hawaii or members of the military stationed here when they were killed.

"It is conceivable that all those listed as being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan could be awarded the medal next year," Kukona said.

Funding for the new medal will taken out of the Legislature's operating budget, Kukona added. The medal and an accompanying certificate will be awarded during the 2006 Legislature to the families of the fallen service members.

Since the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 120,000 regular, reserve and National Guard troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest contingent was the nearly 12,000 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still pending is the possible awarding of the U.S. Medal of Honor, the country's highest medal for valor, to Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was assigned to Kaneohe Bay's 3rd Marine Regiment, when he was killed in Fallujah on Nov. 14, 2004. Peralta used his body to protect his patrol from a grenade attack during one of Fallujah's bitter house-to-house battles.

Kukona said that in 1997 Gov. Ben Cayetano approved the Hawaii Medal of Valor to honor all service members who were killed in conflicts leading up to the Bosnia peacekeeping missions. However, he said that was not an individual medal and was part of campaign undertaken by every state with the 50 state medals displayed at the Arlington National Memorial Cemetery.

The 25th Infantry Division's 325th Forward Support Battalion turned over its operations April 3 to the 173rd Support Battalion (Airborne) during a ceremony on Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. The transfer of authority involved support operations that range from medical assistance missions to re-supply to repairing weapons and equipment. The support battalion even handled the brigade's mortuary affairs.

On April 10, the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii's 25th Infantry Division (Light) transferred authority of Zabul province in Southeast Afghanistan to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne).

In a ceremony at the police headquarters in the provincial capital of Qalat, the Zabul provincial leadership welcomed Lt. Col. Mark Stammer, battalion commander of Task Force Rock, and said goodbye to the outgoing commander of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, Lt. Col. Scott McBride. The ceremony took place in front of a large crowd with the tribal elders of Zabul province in attendance, the Army reported. Gov. Delbar Arma said that as much as he regretted losing McBride, he looked forward to building as good of a relationship with Stammer.

The members of World War II's 100th Battalion veterans organization will celebrate the 63rd anniversary with a luncheon at 11 a.m. June 18 at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Australians and New Zealanders will gather at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at 11 a.m. tomorrow for ANZAC Day, to commemorate the 1915 landing of 30,000 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to force Turkey out of World War I. Fighting alongside British and other Allied soldiers, more than 12,000 ANZACs died in the campaign. With the assistance of the U.S. Marine Corps, ANZAC Day has been observed at Punchbowl each year since 1973. Wreaths will be laid by Gov. Linda Lingle; Adm. William Fallon, commander of Pacific Command; Mayor Mufi Hannemann and by other military, veteran and civilian organizations. A wreath will also be laid by Marine Corps Sgt. Steven Daniels whose grandfather fought at Gallipoli. The service will be led by the John Wood, New Zealand ambassador to the United States, and John Quinn, consul general of Australia in Hawaii.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other
sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He can be reached can be reached by phone
at 294-4075 or by e-mail at gkakesako@starbulletin.com.

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