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Pearl Harbor veteran honored with inflight hula, song

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In a photo provided by Brooks Onishi, Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant Lehua Beltrame-Tevaga greeted passenger Ray Richmond during a flight Thursday from Honolulu to San Diego.

A group of Hawaii musicians and a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant provided special inflight entertainment to a Pearl Harbor survivor flying home from a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack.

Ray Richmond, 97, and his family were the last passengers to board Thursday’s flight from Honolulu to San Diego, said flight attendant Lehua Beltrame-Tevaga, who is also the reigning Mrs. Hawaii America. She noticed that the family seemed a little upset, so during takeoff she and some crewmembers brainstormed about a way to cheer them up, she said.

Also on the flight were the three members of well-known Hawaii group, Makaha Sons. So Beltrame-Tevaga asked them if they wouldn’t mind singing for Richmond.

With an hour left in the flight, they went to the row where Richmond was sitting with his family. The lead flight attendant announced that Richmond was a Pearl Harbor veteran. Beltrame-Tevaga took a lei from around her neck and placed it on Richmond.

Mark Yim of the group played the guitar while Jerome Koko and Kimo Artis sang “Papalina Lahilahi.” Beltrame-Tevaga danced hula next to Richmond’s seat.

Richmond thanked the performers and Beltrame-Tevaga said he told her “it was the best part of his whole trip.”

The performance felt like a natural thing to do “out of respect,” Beltrame-Tevaga said after returning to Honolulu from San Diego on Friday. “It’s a gift — something genuine, only Hawaii can offer.”

Passenger Brooks Onishi, a loan officer for Veterans United Home Loans who was seated behind the Makaha Sons, filmed the performance on his phone.

“This was just so much aloha for our veteran. Just pure and simple, that’s what it was,” he said.

Richmond was one of the survivors who returned to Pearl Harbor Wednesday for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the attack that plunged the United States into World War II and left more than 2,300 service people dead.

“It was just a good feeling, not only for Makaha Sons, but for everybody on the plane,” said Koko, the group’s leader. “People came up and started to kiss him and crying and thank him for all his service. So that was really nice.”

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  • That was just a beautiful gesture on the part of the HAL Flight Attendant and the Makaha Sons…..the Flight Attendant did it voluntarily and she should be commended by the President of HAL and recognized throughout the airline industry on the Hawaiian Hospitality accorded to one veteran on his flight home. What a beautiful standard of ALOHA shown to this remarkable veteran and a well-deserved recognition.

    • This is the reason I always try to fly Hawaiian Airlines whenever I come back home from the mainland. You always feel the Aloha from the crew. Like my brother says, “Once you enter the plane, you are already home even though the plane hasn’t taken off yet!”. Kudos to Hawaiian Airlines for keeping the Aloha spirit alive among its employees.

  • Wife & I were in the TSA line with this hero and all were trying to get him up to the front but hard since it was a tight line and he was in a wheel chair. We were headed to Seattle and he to San Diego. What happened aboard the San Diego flight is truly unique to Hawaii. Every time I get frustrated with Hawaii politics or cost of living, etc. I think about how special a place in which I live for now over 55 years. This hero got a taste of Hawaii for which we are grateful. Perhaps in this spirit we can tackle the problem our 50th State faces.

  • I’m wondering why they selected that particular song/hula “Papalina Lahilahi”? If you know Hawaiian, then you know the various meanings in the lyrics, which are intentionally lascivious.

    • Oh Please! Ken_Conklin, you cannot even for once relay something positive and kind.

      Aloha and mahalo to flight attendant Lehua and the Makaha Sons (Mark, Jerome and Kimo)for honoring Mr. Richmond while on his way back home. As Mr. Richmond said, “it was the best part of his trip”.

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