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Public access to Punchbowl service will be limited due to VIPs

Sunday’s funeral service for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl is open to the public, but hundreds fewer people will be able to attend than originally anticipated, a cemetery official said Saturday. 

President Barack Obama’s attendance at the service, along with the presence of 20 U.S. senators and several international dignitaries, are some of the reasons the cemetery has been forced to ramp up security and significantly restrict the number of people allowed to enter the cemetery. 

“The number right now hasn’t been nailed down, but it’s certainly not going to be as open as was originally intended,” cemetery spokeswoman Nadine Siak said today. “It’s certainly not just because of the president, but I have to say that’s an element that has made the situation different than it was originally.”

Siak said the cemetery first planned on setting up 1,000 chairs with additional space for people to stand. The number of attendees instead will be “in the hundreds,” she said. 

Large public events held at the cemetery each year, such as the Veterans Day Ceremony in November, can draw as many as 1,500 people or more.

Those hoping to attend the funeral ceremony have been instructed to gather at the Ala­pai Transit Center to board buses that will shuttle them to and from the cemetery. The free shuttle service, which will include Handi-Vans for riders with mobility difficulties, will begin at 7 a.m. and run until 9 a.m., or whenever maximum capacity is reached. The Punchbowl service will begin at 10 a.m.

The Department of Veteran Affairs at Punchbowl announced today that tickets will be distributed at the Alapai Transit Center parking garage on a first-come, first-served basis, and only people with tickets who ride the dedicated buses will be allowed into the cemetery. 

Airport-like security will be set up at the transit center, so the VA is urging people to bring as few personal items as possible. Bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids other than bottled water, and signs will not be allowed, but bottled water, cameras and cell phones will be permitted.

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