News: Thank you: Sacrifice dedication honored on Mighty Mo
Story by Kristen Wong
FORD ISLAND — Service members, veterans, families and many more guests celebrated Veterans Day in a ceremony aboard USS Missouri, also famously known as the “Mighty Mo,” Nov. 11.
This Veteran’s Day, the USS Missouri Memorial Association paid tribute to women serving in the armed forces, and featured remarks from guest speakers Army Brig. Gen. Martha N. Wong, Sgt. 1st Class Joy Couch and Vera Stone Williams.
Susan E. Cowan, a member of the USS Missouri Memorial Association’s board of directors made opening remarks. She highlighted several new initiatives from each branch of service that give females more opportunities to serve in combat and leadership roles.
“Women have become an integral and central part of every service,” Cowan said. “Due to the evolution of warfare as we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are now performing tasks thought not possible
physically and culturally a decade ago. We have a truly committed and dedicated armed services team leveraging the strengths of both genders.”
Williams, the author of two books including “WACs; History of the Women’s Army Corps 1942-1978,” was the first guest speaker. She shared stories with the audience about women who served during World War II, including the Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASPs, for example, were not officially recognized for their service until the 1970s, as a result of efforts by representatives like Patsy Mink.
“These women, who were inspired by Amelia Earhart, went on to inspire generations of women pilots and women astronauts,” Williams said. “So on a beautiful day like today, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on their bravery, their dedication and their service to our country, alongside all our veteran heroes.”
Couch deployed several times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and earned a Bronze Star Medal and the Sgt. Audie Murphy Award. She shared a few of her experiences serving in the U.S. Army.
“I’m a proud noncommissioned officer, a leader of soldiers,” Couch said. “I’m a member of a time-honored corps and will fulfill those duties inherent in that role. I will always place a soldier’s needs above my own and I will be loyal to those with whom I serve — my seniors, my peers and subordinates alike ... it’s an honor to serve with you and serve for you.”
Wong, of Honolulu, approached the podium next. She is the first female general to serve in the Hawaii Army National Guard. Wong paid tribute to both females who have served in history and her fellow service
After Wong’s speech, the crowd was silent as Command Master Chief Patricia Roebuck read the “Presentation of Old Glory.” Sailors dressed in crisp whites each ceremoniously passed the folded American flag
to the next and rendered a salute. The last sailor in the line presented the flag to Lolita K. James.
James, of Honolulu, was honored for her contributions during World War II as a military spouse and as an employee on Ford Island.
After a moment of silence, sailors fired their rifles in a three-volley salute on the deck of the Mighty Mo, and members of Celtic Pipes and
Drums of Hawaii rose from their seats to play the song “Amazing Grace.”
As attendees left the ship, military guests paused to render a traditional last salute just before debarking. Some veterans lingered on the deck, like Orly Keller and Alden Pule, both Vietnam veterans and recipients of the Purple Heart Medal for combat wounds.
“A lot of people made a lot of sacrifices, not only in Vietnam,” Keller, from Mililani, said. “I feel deeply that they should not be forgotten.”
Pule, of Aiea, served aboard ships in his military career and said being aboard USS Missouri brought back memories of his service. He plans to return to Veterans Day ceremonies next year.
As the sun set on another Veterans Day, the American flag was lowered from the edge of USS Missouri, and retired for the evening along with male and female service members of the past and present.
“In this dynamic world we live in, we must continue to learn from our history,” Wong said. “My admonition to you all is to be the change that you want to see and always thank a veteran for being able to do that.”