Hawaii state legislators gathered at the capitol here March 27 to present the Hawaii Medal of Honor to 19 families of Hawaii-born or -based service members who were killed in combat over the past year.
“We do this, a public ceremony, because we wish to express in more than just a symbolic way what it is we regard as most fundamental to recognition of what it takes to enable us to be a free people,” Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at the ceremony. “Why are we in such a solemn regard? It’s because we understand that in ceremonies such as this we are engaged in a public expression in what constitutes our fundamental values.”
The families of ten soldiers and nine Marines were presented the medal, which has been given at the Hawaii state capitol since House Bill 8, designated as Act 21, Session Laws of Hawaii of 2005 was passed. According to the bill’s language, “The purpose of this Act is to provide for a Hawaii Medal of Honor that would help express the deep appreciation and gratitude of the People of Hawaii to the loved ones of members of the military who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation and its freedoms.”
Prior to presenting the medal to the family members, Hawaii National Guard Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong expressed his gratitude to the family members and fellow service members in attendance.
“There is no honor higher that our state can bestow upon a member of our armed forces than the Hawaii Medal of Honor,” Wong said. “This is not an honor we bestow with joy, but rather we do so with heavy hearts and solemn resolve.
“Collectively, as a state, we have made it our mission to express our deepest appreciation to these brave men and women,” he continued. “We resolve to ensure the families of our service members shall always be a part of our Hawaiian Ohana, and that the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones will always be remembered.” In Hawaiian culture Ohana means family, and Wong’s usage of the word connotes extended family.
Among those honored at the ceremony were six Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, who were killed in action in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. As each of the fallen were mentioned, a family member or friend received the medal and a certificate in addition to the appreciation of the state of Hawaii, whether they grew up here or were stationed here.
Hawaii state legislature Rep. K. Mark Takai, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs, stressed the significance of this program.
“In 2005, when we first passed this legislation, I just don’t think we understood how important this was going to be, not only to the families, but more importantly to the people of Hawaii,” said Takai, who also serves as a commissioned officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Takai also highlighted the significant role the U.S. military plays in Hawaii.
“The military has been such an important part of our history,” he said. “Even pre-dating the start of World War II, the military has played a pivotal role in our state’s history. We are a unique state because of everybody coming together, including the military families, so we pay particular attention to our military.”
This is the eighth year that the Hawaii state legislature has honored people with Hawaii ties that died in wars overseas.
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