Friday, November 27, 2015         


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Grave responsibility

The Office of Veterans Services has a new director, Abercrombie announces at a rite

By Nelson Daranciang


The new director of the state Office of Veterans Services said Friday he wants to achieve federal shrine status for the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of Ronald P. Han Jr. at the Veterans Day ceremony at the cemetery.

"The very first step is to get in contact with the people I serve, and that's our veterans and veterans organizations," Han said.

His ideas for addressing joblessness and homelessness among veterans involve initiatives already announced by President Barack Obama, and by Abercrombie and his coordinator on homelessness, Marc Alexander, he said.

But Han also wants to establish shrine status for the 123-acre Kaneohe cemetery, a designation that brings honor and prestige but no federal money. The designation would mean the cemetery is maintained to the highest standards.

To achieve shrine status, the state has to provide written assurance to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to maintain the cemetery according to VA National Cemetery standards.

The 82-acre West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery on Hawaii island achieved shrine status last December.

Just seven years ago, before the state Legislature began funding repairs, few people would have considered shrine status for the Kaneohe cemetery, which was in poor condition with a leaking sprinkler system, erosion, uprooted trees, a cracked columbarium, sinking grave sites and overgrown weeds. The state said it has since addressed problems at the Kaneohe cemetery with increased staffing and funding.

Han, 50, is a retired colonel from the Hawaii Air National Guard, ending 28 years of military service in July. His last assignment was as commander of the 154th Maintenance Group, part of the 154th Wing, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

He is an 'Iolani School and University of Hawaii-Manoa graduate. He received his commission as second lieutenant in May 1983 through the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Program at UH. Han served more than eight years on active duty before joining the Guard in 1992.

The director's job at the Office of Veterans Services became vacant last month when Gregory Jackson Jr. stepped down to take a job as a civilian adviser to the fledging country of South Sudan.

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