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Remembrances envelop a day for U.S. veterans

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    Cadets from Kahuku JROTC unfurled an American flag at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Monday for the Veterans Day ceremony. More photos from this and other Veterans Day events around the island can be viewed at

Army veteran Emery Clough, a truck driver in Vietnam in 1966-67, thought about the guys that didn’t come back.

One was a replacement with his unit only about a week.

Another was lost in an ambush. They were probably 19 or 20.

"I always think of the guys that didn’t get a chance," he said.

James Snyder, 82, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major, was thinking Monday of his four brothers who served in combat in World War II.

Two were in the Navy, one in the Army and one in the Marines. They all made it through, and Snyder himself survived bitter fighting at the Cho­sin Reservoir in Korea in 1950-51.

"We’re a lucky family," he said.

About 1,000 people — many of them current or former service members — came to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Veterans Day to pay respect to past and present military members for their service to the nation.


>> Veterans Day ceremonies
>> Veterans Day parade


The ceremony took place at the base of the Hono­lulu Memorial and its grand staircase flanked by inscribed names of missing Americans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Army National Guard soldier and one of only two female combat veterans in Congress, said, "As we celebrate Veterans Day, there are millions of Americans all across the country and around the world who celebrate with us."

Some lay a wreath or flowers at a grave and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, she said. Others stop to shake the hand of a service member and express their gratitude.

"But collectively, we say mahalo on behalf of a grateful nation forever indebted to our fallen warriors and their families and for all who continue to serve," Gabbard said. "This is a debt that is impossible for us to perfectly repay."

Amid the speeches were individual thoughts of the bravery and character and duty that Gabbard and others sought to highlight.

Army Lt. Col. Robert Born thought of his father, who fought in Vietnam; both grandfathers, who fought in World War II; and a soldier who fought under him in Iraq, 1st Lt. Nai­noa Hoe.

Hoe, a 1995 Kame­ha­meha Schools graduate and popular platoon leader, was felled by a sniper in Mosul in 2005. Born was his company commander at the time.

"I think of him every day but in particular on Veterans Day," Born said.

Akira Okamoto, 92, recalled his days as an Army staff sergeant with the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team of mostly nisei soldiers who fought valiantly in Italy, France and Germany in World War II.

"We were so close together — they are like our family," he said of his fellow soldiers in Cannon Company.

"Me and my partner used to go behind enemy lines and look for targets to support the infantry," said the one-time forward observer. "When I think of that today, I am lucky to be alive. We had a lot of close calls."

More than 40 members of his former company are buried at Punchbowl, said Oka­moto, who was in a wheelchair.

So is his father, a World War I veteran, as well as two brothers and a sister.

"I think about all my brothers, my family," Oka­moto said of his thoughts on Veterans Day.

Retired Col. Ralph Hiatt asked World War II veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized, followed by those who served in Korea; Vietnam; Grenada, Panama and Somalia; the Gulf War; and Iraq and Af­ghani­stan and other continuing Operation Enduring Freedom efforts.

A haka war dance was performed, wreaths were presented for the fallen, 21 rifle shots rang out and echo taps played.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, noted the Armistice Day roots of what became Veterans Day with the cessation of major fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, to end World War I, known then as the "war to end all wars."

"Our historic hope remains unfulfilled that the armistice enacted on the 11th day at the 11th hour in the 11th month would mark the end of our wars," Brooks said.

Veterans have since "taken their place in the line," as they have done since the founding of the nation, Brooks said.

"There’s no mystery behind the endurance and the success of American liberty," he said. "It’s because in every generation, from the revolutionary period to this very hour, brave Americans have stepped forward to answer a call to duty and to serve where directed on behalf of our country."

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