A solemn remembrance started 24 years ago continues at the State Capitol grounds.
At 11pm Hawai’i time on December 23, it’s already Christmas Eve in Vietnam. About 60 veterans – most of them from the Vietnam War -- gathered with their supporters and loved ones at the Korea/Vietnam Memorial on the Ewa side of the State Capitol grounds. Attorney Tom Stirling was an intelligence officer in Vietnam.
“We picked this night because our war – the Vietnam War – does not have any events that are associated with it like December 7th or November 11th or for the Korean War, June 25 or July 27. But, it’s highly likely that any of us who served in Vietnam on Christmas Eve remember where you were and who you were with and what it was like.”
Allen Hoe, also an attorney, was a combat medic in Vietnam and was wounded during the 1968 Tet Counter-Offensive. His son was killed in Northern Iraq in 2005.
“They, like we once were soldiers. They never got to be a veteran. Like my oldest son, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe. He never had that privilege. And, so, the significance of our obligation to remember our buddies who stood on our left and on our right and in many instances, because they were there, we are here and God bless them all.”
Bill Richards, one of the captains of the Hokule’a, is one of 4 Vietnam veterans with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. He served with the 3rd battalion, 3rd Marines during Tet in 1968.
“It’s trial by fire. You make it out and from that point on, the decisions you make in your life is based on how much you can handle. And, Vietnam taught me a lot.”
Retired state circuit judge Thomas Kaulukukui Junior served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He delivered the 1994 dedication ceremony speech for the Korea/Vietnam Memorial.
“I wrote a poem basically that said we have a lot of memorials and we have another one. But, in the final analysis, if you’re in a war, the real memorial is a roll call of the dead. It’s always been that way.”
All attendees were invited to recite a name in remembrance. Then, a large candle lighted and carried earlier from the Eternal Flame across the street was used to light smaller candles for each participant.
Again, Allen Hoe.
“I think our involvement in this is hopefully to encourage other veterans who have had difficulty in coming forth to come forth and be proud of their service.”
“Merry Christmas (response) and thanks for coming.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.