Mayor leads solemn Memorial Day tribute for service men, women.. - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mayor leads solemn Memorial Day tribute for service men, women at Punchbowl

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

PUNCHBOWL (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dignitaries, including representatives from various consuls, and members of veterans organizations gathered for the 61st Annual Mayor's Memorial Day Ceremony at Punchbowl Monday.

Hundreds converged on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific for a solemn tribute to the fallen men and women of our armed forces.

"We are here to sincerely acknowledge our enormous debt to them and to their families, a debt that can never be repaid in full," Peter Carlisle, Honolulu mayor, said.

Under a clear sky with a cool breeze moving through, members of a grateful nation came together at Puowaina -- or Hill of Sacrifice -- to honor the more than 51,000 service men and women, and their family members, who are buried or interred there.

"For me, it's a very, very special day to really highlight the death of all these heroes," Dolly Felicilda, widow of a Korean War veteran, said.

Felicilda watched the ceremony with her family from her special spot at Punchbowl -- next to the grave marker for her beloved husband, US Army soldier and Korean War veteran Simplicio Felicilda.

"We are here today to remember and to honor all the fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and merchant mariners who protected our nation and fought for our freedom and our future," Carlisle said.

Veterans Affairs assistant secretary and decorated combat veteran Tammy Duckworth was among the many who presented memorial wreaths.

Thoughts were also with the men and women still serving our country overseas.

"There are thousands of Hawaii-based troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," Carlisle said. "Thousands more have returned. They all deserve our appreciation and respect."

The traditional rifle salute was followed by the playing of Taps, and an unusual missing man formation. Only two F-15s soared across the sky.

City officials say the Hawaii National Guard was unable to do the flyover because it's transitioning to new aircraft, so officials with the Montana National Guard provided what they could.

The service still moved Felicilda to tears.

"It really touched my heart to see how proud we are," she said.

The Royal Hawaiian Band performed "This is My Country" and "Amazing Grace." The Sounds of Aloha sang "Star Spangled Banner," "God Bless America" and a patriotic medley.

Junior ROTC cadets from Castle, Farrington, Moanalua and Radford high schools participated in the posting of the 50 state flags.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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