Veterans Day tribute ends with sunset ceremony

| November 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

A Korean War veteran salutes the flag at the sunset ceremony. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

Battleship Missouri Memorial
News Release

PEARL HARBOR — Veterans Day observances across the nation came to a close with a sunset ceremony held onboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial, here.

This year’s ceremony featured a special tribute to women veterans, both past and present, who served in our armed forces.

The theme, “Honoring Our Brave Women Veterans of All Generations,” recognized the vast contributions women veterans have made to ensure America’s freedom, which date back to the American War of Independence. Currently, women veterans represent more than two million of our total veteran population nationwide.

“The importance of women serving our armed forces has grown in stature through the years and with each battle,” said Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, caretaker of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. “The achievements of our women veterans have helped to make the U.S. military one of the most diverse organizations in America.”

On Battleship Row and with the USS Arizona Memorial at a distance, Col. Kara A. Gormont, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and commander for the 15th Medical Group at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, presented the ceremony’s keynote address. Gormont talked about her personal experiences and role as a wife, mother and daughter serving in the military, and the challenges women encounter.

“It is often the strain of competing roles that cause many women to leave military service much too early,” said Gormont. “Military women have a history of ‘leaning in,’ but often it is the pull of their family ties and roles that make this more challenging for them to serve.”

Jaqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and a 24-year veteran of the National Park Service, served as the distinguished guest speaker. In her speech, Ashwell highlighted why representation in the armed forces matters, dating back to the success of the Women’s Air Raid Defense (WARD) detachment in Hawaii in 1941.

The Pacific Command Joint Service Color Guard presents the colors at Saturday’s ceremony. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

“By mid-January, the Women’s Air Raid Defense was online. Local radar operators quickly got over the initial surprise of hearing a confident female voice on the other end of the radio,” said Jaqueline Ashwell.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be here at Pearl Harbor, sharing our critical history – our part in the war, our path to peace and reconciliation. Our gratitude goes out to all those brave women, as well as men who prepare for war in order that we may make peace,” she said.

The opening remarks, provided by retired Rear Adm. Alma Grocki, board member for the USS Missouri Memorial Association, holds the distinction of being the first woman from Hawaii appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Then 1976 arrived, and although it had been planned and in the works for almost a decade, the opening of the military service academies to women was still a surprise, and very controversial,” said Grocki. “This is when the story about women veterans came out of the history books and became real for me. I was able to take advantage of this huge integration of women into the mainstream military and join the second class of women at the United States Naval Academy.”

Surrounded by the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor, the Veterans Day sunset ceremony included a moment of silence to remember America’s fallen heroes, followed by the playing of taps by the 25th Infantry Division Band.

Retired Rear Adm. Alma Grocki presents the opening address on Saturday’s ceremony. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

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