Friday was a day to honor our nation’s veterans, and that patriotism was on full display at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Hundreds gathered at Punchbowl as Kahuku High School JROTC cadets performed military honors and a helicopter flyover was conducted.
“Your heart swells with pride when you think of all the generations, me, my grandfather, my father served. When you come to Hawaii, you see how grateful we are for the service that Americans have provided. You also get to see the great freedoms and liberty because of that service,” said Rear Adm. John Fuller, Navy Region Hawaii Commander.
Over in Wahiawa, the Wahiawa Lions staged their 70th annual Veterans Day Parade with more than 80 marching units, led by Leilehua High School Junior ROTC and the Royal Hawaiian Band, proceeding along California Avenue.
Flags waving and music playing, it was a show of thanks to the men and women who’ve served the country.
Veterans said they’re humbled by the community’s appreciation for their service.
“I was in Vietnam, served one year. I was in the infantry for seven months and a mission gunner on a helicopter for my last five months,” said Jerry Omalza, as he watched the parade. “I come here every year. I love this parade. I bring my grandchildren.”
“I’ve served two tours in Afghanistan and two tours in Korea, aside from stateside, here, Kansas, and Texas,” said Donald McGlothlin, training manager with the 25th Infantry Division Artillery. “It’s great to see other veterans supporting the military and the veterans who have served before.”
“It’s just amazing that the community is so supportive of us,” said veteran Patsy Takemura. “Vietnam veterans didn’t have this unfortunately.”
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, World War I ended with an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany.
A year later, Congress proclaimed the day Armistice Day, which was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
It’s a day to honor and thank the nearly 23 million military veterans and 57 million family members.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz:
“On this Veterans Day, we honor the dedication and sacrifice of our veterans and their families. Less than one percent of Americans shoulder the immense responsibility of defending our nation. They have never hesitated to answer the call when our country has needed them and for that we are forever grateful. Today and every day we show our respect and gratitude for their courage, sacrifice, and perseverance in the face of adversity. To the more than 120,000 veterans who call Hawaii home, we extend a special aloha and hope each one of you will feel the gratitude of a thankful nation. Please join me today by thanking our veterans for their service.”
Gov. David Ige:
“On this Veterans Day, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to those who have served and who are currently serving in the United States military. Both my father and Dawn’s father fought in World War II. We honor that generation as the State of Hawaii prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you veterans, for your bravery and sacrifice.”
Many veterans we spoke with say they’re hopeful the needs of veterans will take top priority in the coming years.
“We have to take care of them,” Takemura said. “These people are so selfless and they just want to serve their country.”
President-elect Donald Trump pledged to increase veteran care during his campaign. Veterans tell KHON2 they hope he lives up to his promises.
“You have to wait long for doctor appointments. You have to wait like months,” Omalza said. “By the time they get to me, I feel all sick.”
“It’s a wait and see, and I hope the VA structure can become more efficient,” said veteran Ben Acohido.
Some said they’d like to see easier access to care for local veterans living in areas far from town.
“You gotta send some type of transportation, pick them up and get them to their appointments,” Omalza said.
Other veterans say active duty members shouldn’t be forgotten either.
“To keep us properly trained and equipped and give the military missions that are doable,” Acohido said.
Politics aside, veterans say they hope today’s generation realizes the future of the country is in their hands.