Small KMC community shows big heart on Memorial Day

| June 3, 2016 | 0 Comments
CAP cadets of the Lyman Field Composite Squadron, Hilo, post the colors to open the ceremony.

CAP cadets of the Lyman Field Composite Squadron, Hilo, post the colors to open the ceremony.

 

Story and photos by John Reese
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs

KILAUEA MILITARY CAMP, Hawaii — The small, tight-knit community, here, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, commemorated Memorial Day with an emotional ceremony that paid homage to those who died in service to the country, Monday.

Ultimately, the ceremony was of, and for, the local community to remember the fallen.

Retired Army Col. Randy Hart, director (and a former KMC commander), opens the Memorial Day ceremony.

Retired Army Col. Randy Hart, director (and a former KMC commander), opens the Memorial Day ceremony.

“The significance of this ceremony shows how long the Army has been serving on this island,” said Air Force veteran Charlie Mapa, master of ceremonies for the fourth year in a row, adding that his grandfather served in the same Army battalion “made up of mostly sugarcane workers” who built the camp a hundred years ago. “When I think of the centennial of KMC, I think about my grandfather and our veterans.”

Like most of the other volunteers who made the ceremony possible at this outpost on the edge of an active volcano, Mapa doesn’t work for the Army and was there in support of fellow vets.

“It’s important to honor our veterans,” Mapa said.

The day began with clear blue skies, but an hour before the ceremony, the 3 p.m. ceremony was hastily moved indoors for the mostly older audience as a chilly rain began to fall minutes before it was to begin.

A color guard of Lyman Field Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol cadets, aided by members of the KMC staff and a few gray-haired and bearded veterans led by the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s senior enlisted adviser, all pitched in to ensure the ceremony during the 100th anniversary of the camp took place.

The USAG-HI command team of Col. Richard Fromm and Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Felicioni added gravitas to the ceremony by their presence, with Fromm providing the keynote address.

Col. Richard Fromm, commander, USAG-HI, delivers the KMC Memorial Day observance keynote address.

Col. Richard Fromm, commander, USAG-HI, delivers the KMC Memorial Day observance keynote address.

“Today we gather here at KMC and at American cemeteries around the world to remember America’s sons and daughters who have sacrificed everything in the defense of our nation,” Fromm said. “On each Memorial Day, America is reminded of these selfless individuals — America’s quiet heroes. As Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, ‘The Soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.’”

Also in attendance was Dr. Christine T. Altendorf, director, Installation Management Command-Pacific, who thought the KMC ceremony important enough to include it in her busy schedule before attending the USAG-Pohakuloa change of command ceremony, Wednesday.

Two of the observance’s volunteers, both named Raymond, added unique and local musical touches. Retired Army Brig. Gen. Raymond Gandy and Army veteran Raymond Dustin served as bugler and piper, respectively.

Gandy

Gandy

Years ago, when he retired, Gandy took up the bugle of a late cousin, Air Force Capt. Bill Reaves, a combat pilot and Vietnam veteran, having never played before. He learned so that he could honor the fallen with an unrecorded rendition of taps, and at his request, he wasn’t identified as a former general officer to those in attendance.

“I enlisted in ’66 and retired as a brigadier general in 2000,” Gandy said. “It’s Ray Gandy the Vietnam vet playing the trumpet, not the general.”

Dustin was a non-Morse cryptographic interceptor in Alaska during the Vietnam era. This was his fourth time playing “Amazing Grace” for Memorial Day at KMC. His somber pipes following Gandy’s “taps” concluded the event.

DSC_0042

Dustin

Local resident Mae Stillson attended the ceremony in remembrance of her brother, Pfc. Michael S. Mitchell. He had volunteered for the Army and was subsequently killed in combat in Vietnam during one of the larger battles of the late 1960s. Even though it was half a century ago, she still had a difficult time keeping her emotions in check as she explained it felt important to honor him and the others who have fallen.

“My brother fell on July 10 during the battle of Dak To,” she said, holding back her tears. “He was 20 years and 20 days old. He’s got three generations of nieces who remember him now.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: News, Observances

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *