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Lingle and Lee honor state’s U.S. veterans

    Supporters waved American flags as soldiers marched by yesterday during the annual Wahiawa Veterans Day Parade along California Avenue.
    Veterans and the public gathered for a Veterans Day observance yesterday at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.
    Benjamin Mixon, left, commanding general of all Army soldiers in the Pacific; Max Cleland, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission; U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka; and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona bowed their heads during prayers.
    Fred Wakugawa, above left, and Henry Furuya, from the Korean War Veterans Association of Hawaii, laid a wreath yesterday during the Veterans Day ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Lt. Gen.
    An Air Force honor guard fired a rifle salute during the ceremony.

Gov. Linda Lingle and Maj. Gen. Robert Lee participated in Veterans Day ceremonies at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery for the last time yesterday as commander in chief and commanding general of Hawaii’s National Guard forces, respectively.

Lee is retiring as state adjutant general next month, and Lingle steps down as governor.

"It’s been a wonderful privilege to be governor of the great state of Hawaii these past eight years. It’s also been an unexpected and unbelievable honor to be the commander in chief of the Hawaii National Guard and to be a friend of America’s military here in Hawaii," Lingle said.

Lee thanked Hawaii’s veterans and their families for the honor of welcoming them to Veterans Day ceremonies for the past eight years. He also praised Lingle for her commitment to Hawaii veterans and appreciation of the men and women in uniform.

"Gov. Lingle has been present at virtually all of our National Guard send-offs for our soldiers and airmen, and she was there when they came home," he said.

Two Hawaii National Guard units are on deployment in Afghanistan: the 230th Engineer Company and B Company, 171st Aviation Regiment.

Hawaii State Office of Veterans Services Director Mark Moses said there are 120,000 veterans living in Hawaii, the highest per capita population of veterans after Alaska.

Lee said the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery is a special place for its scenic location at the foot of the Koolau Mountains and because it is home to so many of Hawaii’s fallen heroes.

However, during his and Lingle’s tenure, the cemetery did not always get the attention veterans felt it deserves.

After years of neglect due to staffing shortages and hiring freezes, the state Legislature appropriated money five years ago to address chronic problems of erosion, sinking graves and gravestones, a leaky sprinkler system, overgrown weeds and a patchwork of different grasses.

Other Veterans Day observances on Oahu yesterday included ceremonies at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and at the Battleship Missouri as well as a parade through Wahiawa.

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