Hawaii News United by grief, kin of the fallen hold yearly rite By Sarah Zoellick Sept. 30, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COMLis Olsen Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Cousins Ariana Whetten and B.J. Mikasobe didn’t always get along when they were younger, but the past three years have brought the teens closer than they ever could have imagined. In 2008 B.J.’s dad, Army Sgt. Jensen Mikasobe, died of skin cancer after returning from a deployment to Iraq. Two years later Ariana’s dad, Army Sgt. 1st Class Glen Whetten, died in Afghanistan. He was riding in a tank as a gunner when an improvised explosive device went off, flipping the tank over on him. Both men were 31 when they died. The cousins, who live in Kapolei, gathered Sunday with their family and the families and friends of other fallen soldiers at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to commemorate Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, which honors loved ones left behind when military men and women die while serving their country. "We always help each other when we’re having a bad day," 15-year-old B.J. Mikasobe said after placing his dad’s combat boots at the base of the cemetery’s towering Lady Columbia statue. "We always help each other get through it. And we’re best friends now." Ariana Whetten, 14, said attending national programs through the Survivor Outreach Services Center at Fort Shafter has helped her move on after losing her dad in combat. The programs include Snowball Express, based in Dallas, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, held in Washington, D.C. "It’s not something that I can easily get over because, I mean, he’s my father," she said. "Not many kids my age, like, understand what I’m feeling. So that’s why going to Snowball or going to TAPS or going to these kinds of programs kind of helped me with my problems, because I actually can open up to people and, like, have someone to talk to." Lis Olsen, who serves as the Army Community Service Outreach director and program manager for the center at Fort Shafter, helped plan Sunday’s second annual Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day in Hawaii and has been closely involved with family outreach work since her son, Army Cpl. Toby Olsen, a 28-year-old Mililani High School graduate, died in Iraq in 2007. "When you lose a son or a husband or a brother or a father while serving in the military, it’s a tragedy," Olsen said. "There’s no way to express what it does to lives. It changes lives forever. And when you have to come, as we do, every Saturday to our son’s graveside here — you know, it’s healing, and it brings you to tears all the time. It’s a journey that we’re on for a lifetime." The teens’ grandmother Carol Mikasobe said it’s important for families who share the bond of having lost a loved one in service to maintain a sense of camaraderie as a way to combat loneliness and grief. "You don’t feel alone," she said. Then her voice began to crack with emotion at the loss of her two sons-in-law. (Jensen Mikasobe took his wife’s last name.) "What I feel I’ve gained is a lot of new friends," she said. Mikasobe’s husband, Miki Mikasobe, sang "Hawai‘i Pono‘i" for the small crowd at Punchbowl. Congress, under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt, first declared the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day in 1936. The day takes its name from the service flag families began flying in their windows during World War I that had blue stars on it to denote active-duty military members and gold stars for the fallen. President Barack Obama last year changed the name to Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day. Col. Daniel Whitney, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said during Sunday’s ceremony that the name change is fitting because "it’s truly the fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who together share this very difficult sacrifice." He added, "For more than 238 years the price of liberty has been very high, yet generation after generation of Americans have produced extraordinary men and women who join the cause that is bigger than themselves. They knew the risk involved, yet they loved their country and were willing to die for its values." Previous Story 911 Report Next Story Heroes reuniting in 'triumph'