BY CHELSEA JENSEN| WEST HAWAII TODAY
Take some time to thank, honor and remember America's military personnel for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom this Veterans Day.
West Hawaii will host three services Friday in celebration of Veterans Day -- the day set aside annually to pay homage to those who served honorably in the U.S. military.
"This day is for all veterans. Everyone. Those that are living and those that have passed," said David Carlson, commander of the American Legion Kona Post 20, which assists with the annual West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Veterans Day program. "It is the day set aside to commemorate the end of World War I and those who protected us during war and (during) times of peace."
At the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, located north of Kailua-Kona, the public is invited to take part in the annual Veterans Day program, which is hosted this year by the Kona chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. The event starts at 11 a.m. and will feature a service, guest speaker and luncheon.
This year's guest speaker is Big Island native Curtis Tyler, a lifetime member of the chapter and former Hawaii County Councilman, said Boss Hanato, an Army veteran, chapter member and the event's coordinator. Tyler is a retired U.S. Navy veteran.
With the event expected to draw several hundred, attendees are asked to arrive a half-hour early, he said.
Parking at the top of the cemetery is limited to those requiring handicap-accessible parking. Others are asked to drop off passengers at the top and then park alongside the cemetery's access road and take a van, which will be provided by the chapter, to the event, he added.
For those in North Hawaii, the Kohala National Guard Alumni will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony to remember all those who served. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at Veterans Field in the county's Kamehameha Park in Kapaau. A luncheon will follow.
This year's program will honor all veterans with an emphasis on Vietnam War veterans, said Kohala National Guard Alumni President Collin Kaholo. This year marks the 43rd anniversary of U.S. military units being activated to serve in Vietnam, he noted.
Several guest speakers are lined up for the ceremony, including North Kohala resident and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Linda Lewandowski and Operation Vacation recipient U.S. Army Sgt. William Carlson, who is recovering in North Kohala from an injury he suffered during combat in Afghanistan. State Rep. Mark Nakashima, D-North and South Kohala, Hamakua, and North and South Hilo, will also speak.
Down south, the Ka'u Multicultural Society will hold a blessing and celebration event for Veterans Day beginning at 9 a.m. at Naalehu Park. Society President Darlene Vierra said it's the first time since the end of the plantation era in the 1990s that a Veterans Day service is being held in Ka'u.
Ka'u Councilwoman Brittany Smart will be the guest speaker. Various veterans residing in Ka'u will also speak, Vierra said. Following the one-hour service, the park will have games for kids, displays of veterans' photos and memorabilia and other entertainment until 3 p.m.
Veterans Day is always observed on Nov. 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls. The holiday commemorates the end of World War I, which occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day or the 11th month of 1919, and was termed Armistice Day by then-President Woodrow Wilson, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In June 1926, Congress passed a resolution that its anniversary should be commemorated and by 1939, Nov. 11 became a federal holiday. In 1954, Armistice Day was dropped in favor of Veterans Day, according to the department.
Also during the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery program, Civil Air Patrol Kona Composite Squadron cadets will be raising money for Wreaths Across America, a program that honors fallen military personnel by placing wreaths on their headstones during the holidays.
The cadets will also be stationed at the Kailua-Kona Walmart from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday and Nov. 27 to collect donations for the program.
The Kona cadets on Dec. 10 will place wreaths on graves at 7 a.m. to coincide with the noon placing of wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, said Paul Rollman, the Kona Composite Squadron commander.
For more information on the Wreaths Across America program, contact Judy Williams, deputy commander for cadets, at 269-2408 or email email@example.com.