Service and Sacrifice

| November 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

Punchbowl ceremony pays homage to veterans, military 

Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie
U.S. Army-Pacific Public Affairs

Veterans organizations prepare to lay wreaths. Sponsored by the Oahu Veterans Council, the Veterans Day ceremony featured members of all armed services. Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific, gave the keynote address to a crowd of more than 500 people, including Max Cleland, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and Sen. Daniel Akaka. (Photos by B.J. Weiner | U.S. Army-Pacific Public Affairs)HONOLULU — On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, on schedule with Hawaiian Standard Time, U.S. service members both past and present were honored at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a national shrine commonly known as Punchbowl.

“Since 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson set aside the 11th day of November as Armistice Day, and it officially became a holiday in 1938, Americans in communities large and small have gotten together to celebrate,” said keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific. “We congregate in parks, we celebrate in parades and, yes, we kneel at gravesites.” 

The ceremony began with a two-minute silent observance in honor of the fallen, followed by addresses from Sen. Daniel Akaka; Max Cleland, secretary, American Battle Monuments Commission; and Mixon. 

“Today, you honor and pay tribute to all of our nation’s veterans who have honorably served and sacrificed to keep the idea of freedom a beacon of hope for the world,” said retired Col. Gene Castignetti, director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and master of ceremonies. 

“Those of us who are veterans, never think that we ever did anything really special,” Cleland said. “We just served our country, mostly when it was most difficult to do so, and therein lies the heroism, and therein lies the service and the sacrifice.”

According to Mixon, about 23.4 million living Americans have earned the title of veteran, including 1.8 million women. 

Pilots of the 120th Fighter Wing, Montana National Guard, conduct a missing man-formation flyover during the Veterans Day ceremony, Nov. 11, at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The Oahu Veterans Council sponsored the event, which featured members of all armed services. More than 20 veterans organizations placed wreaths at the memorial. “In Hawaii, there are nearly 200,000 veteran service members and their families, comprising about 10 percent of the population of Oahu,” he said. “We owe all of them our support and gratitude.

“America is the great melting pot of the world, and our veterans and service members come from all walks of life, religions, cultures. Each of them has put their own interests secondary to serving Americans,” Mixon said. “Recognize that they are giving something of themselves and many have given their all, laying down their lives to defend freedom.”

During his speech, Mixon praised Hawaii for its appreciation of veterans. 

“Hawaii has done an outstanding job, gone above and beyond the call in expressing appreciation of our veterans,” Mixon said. “I want to thank everyone in this great state for the support that you have provided our service members. 

“We learned some valuable lessons from the Vietnam era, that when our citizens do not support our Soldiers and service members, we are doomed to not succeed,” Mixon said. “We know that our veterans of the Vietnam era succeeded. They succeeded because they served our nation.” 

Mixon then asked the Vietnam veterans to stand and be recognized for a second time.

After Mixon’s address, 20 veterans groups placed wreaths at the base of the Punchbowl Monument stairs. The 311th Signal Command conducted a memorial rifle salute, the U.S. Marine Corps Band played taps and the Montana Air National Guard flew overhead in a missing-man formation. 

“(During) the last 235 years, service members have unwaveringly answered the call to service,” Mixon said. “These fine men and women are the ones who allow us to live each of our lives in peace, stability and harmony. That is why we honor and pay tribute to them today, on Veterans Day, but why we really should do it each and every day of the year.” 

 

Category: Community, Community Relations, Observances

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