News: Hawaii honors fallen service members
HONOLULU - Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives presented the Hawaii Medal of Honor to 19 families of Hawaii service members, who were killed in combat during the past year, at the State Capitol, Wednesday, March 27.
“We do this, a public ceremony, because we wish to express in more than just a symbolic way what it is we regard as most fundamental to recognition of what it takes to enable us to be a free people,” said Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “Why are we in such a solemn regard? It’s because we understand that in ceremonies such as this we are engaged in a public expression in what constitutes our fundamental values.”
The families of 10 soldiers and nine Marines were honored with the medal, which has been given at the Hawaii State Capitol since House Bill Eight, designated as Act 21, Session Laws of Hawaii of 2005 was passed.
According to the Bill, “The purpose of this act is to provide for a Hawaii Medal of Honor that would help express the deep appreciation and gratitude of the people of Hawaii to the loved ones of members of the military who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation and its freedoms.”
Prior to presenting the Medal of Honor to the family members, State Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong expressed his gratitude to the family members and fellow service members in attendance of the crowd filled with both Hawaiian Senate and House of Representatives, Hawaii military dignitaries and comrades of the fallen service members.
“There is no honor higher that our state can bestow upon a member of our armed forces than the Hawaii Medal of Honor,” said Wong. “This is not an honor we bestow with joy, but rather we do so with heavy hearts and solemn resolve. Collectively, as a state, we have made it our mission to express our deepest appreciation to these brave men and women. We resolve to ensure the families of our service men shall always be a part of our Hawaiian ohana and that the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones will always be remembered.”
Among those honored were six Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, who were killed in action in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
As each of the fallen was mentioned, a family member or friend received the medal and a certificate in addition to the appreciation of the state of Hawaii, whether they grew up here or were simply stationed here.
Representative K. Mark Takai, chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs, stressed the significance of this program.
“In 2005 when we first passed this legislation, I just don’t think we understood how important this was going to be, not only to the families, but more importantly to the people of Hawaii,” he said.
Takai, one of the main catalysts in getting House Bill Eight passed, not only stressed the importance of the program, also the significant role the U.S. military plays in the state of Hawaii alone.
“The military has been such an important part of our history,” he continued. “Even pre-dating the start of World War II, the military has played a pivotal role in our state’s history. We are a unique state because of everybody coming together, including the military families, so we pay particular attention to our military. In fact, we’re the only state in the nation that has a specific program like this. The military is a critical component of our Hawaii ohana.”
This is the eighth year that the state legislature has honored people with Hawaii ties who died in wars overseas.