Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day in the Hawaiian Islands

Memorial Day in the Hawaiian Islands

I had not planned to write blog for Memorial Day Weekend. But three events inspired me to do so.

Yesterday, I participated in historical tour of Pearl Harbor.

We learned that the US Navy’s presence dates back to May 31, 1875 when Hawaiian King Kalakua signed a reciprocity agreement with US President Grant. King Kalakau granted exclusive rights for the US Navy to use Pearl Harbor as a “coaling and repair station.” In turn, Hawaii could import its sugar duty free into the United States. 125 years later, Pearl Harbor is considered the Navy’s “Best Home Port” for its ships, subs, sailors, and families. To learn more about Pearl Harbor, log onto:

We also learned that Hickam Army Air Field was official dedicated on May 31, 1935. Seventy five years later, Hickam hosts airlift, air refueling, and fighter aircraft in support of the Pacific Command (PACOM).  I live near the military aircraft parking area – I frequently hear the “sounds of freedom” at 4 am.  But I’d rather hear the engines roar than live in tyranny.

Yesterday, US Navy Lieutenant John Finn passed away at age 100 in California. He was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. On December 14, 1941, Chief Petty Officer Finn was serving at the Naval Air Station in Kaneohe Bay when the Japanese targeted the radars on windward side of the Oahu. He is credited with improvising a machine gun to return fire to the attacking aircraft.  

From an article by Blanca Gonzalez from the San Diego Union-Tribute,

”Although Finn had met every U.S. president since Franklin D . Roosevelt, he had never been inside the White House until last year, when President Barack Obama invited him for a private tour after a Medal of Honor Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama lauded Finn’s heroism in a statement issued Thursday. 'Like many of those who served our nation with such distinction, Lt. Finn often said he never intended to be a hero. Instead, he felt that he was simply doing his duty. His modesty does not diminish his extraordinary conduct — or the incredible example he has set for our men and women in uniform and for all Americans. I had the privilege of meeting Lt. Finn last year, and I was struck by his warmth and humility. As we mark Memorial Day, and pay tribute to all who have fallen in defense of this nation, the passing of Lt. Finn is a reminder of the sacrifices that generations have made to preserve the freedoms we hold dear.'”

On September 15, 1942, Chief Petty Officer Finn received the Medal of Honor from Pacific Commander Admiral Nimitz on the USS Enterprise in Pearl Harbor. He received the award for combat; the other 14 sailors received their awards for rescue. Chief Petty Officer was the last living member of this group. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and retired from the Navy.

To learn more about Lieutenant Finn (and view a moving photo), log onto

Today, eighty something Mary volunteered at the Hickam Thrift Shop.  She also volunteers with the Airmen's Attic and Mary Jane House - age does not stop her.  In fact, we benefit from Mary's wealth of wisdom from being a military spouse, civil servant, and community volunteer.  

Mary's husband is buried at National Cemetery of the Pacific.  The Hawaiians call it Puowaina - Hill of Sacrifice.   Mary will visit her husband on Monday, May 31 - a day after my children and their scout troops place US flags at the each grave.

Mahalo, Lieutenant Finn, for your heroism in Kaneohe Bay.

Mahalo, Mary, for your husband's service in the Air Force.

Mahalo, Mary, for continuing to serve!

Mahalo, Veterans, for keeping me safe, even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

You will be well served when you can for the person who serves you.