Today is Memorial Day, remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. On the Big Island, there are commemorations in Hilo, Kona and Volcano. But the week of remembrance started earlier with a special installation at the island’s newest Veterans Cemetery. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken was there and has this report.
The West Hawai'i Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in 1997, an effort of the military, Hawai'i County, local businesses, and numerous volunteers. Last week, veterans and their family members and many community members gathered for the blessing of a Purple Heart Memorial.
Dale Wilson is the Department Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in the State of Hawai'i, an organization of Purple Heart recipients. He talks about the origins of the award.
“George Washington created the badge of military merit in 1783. In 1932, Douglas MacArthur wanted to honor Washington on his 200th anniversary of his birth and he ordered the creation of the Purple Heart Medal, as a reminder of the badge of merit, because the original badge of military merit had been a lace heart made of purple cloth. And they created that lovely medal, that has the bust of George Washington mounted on that purple shaped heart with the gold border, and the ribbon, purple with white edging. In 1942, President Roosevelt decided they would use the Purple Heart solely for the recognition of wounds or being killed in action.”
Kona’s large red granite Purple Heart Memorial was sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lance Corporal Christopher Camaro Post 12222. Gaylene Hopson is a member of the auxiliary. She helped spearhead the fundraising effort.
“We’ve done bake sales, garage sales, we did the Mauna Lani Christmas tree, a few donations, we went in front of the county council, they gave us money, we had to raise a total of right under 19 thousand.”
Dale Wilson says there are at least 100 Purple Heart recipients on the Big Island, and several hundred statewide. There are other Purple Heart monuments at Kaneohe, Maui and at Hilo Veterans Cemetery.