Vietnam War pavilion dedicated at National Memorial Cemetery - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Vietnam War pavilion dedicated at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

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The new Vietnam Map Pavilion at Punchbowl The new Vietnam Map Pavilion at Punchbowl
Artist Mary Jacobs (blue dress), Sen. Daniel Akaka and American Battle Monuments Commission Secretary Max Cleland (in wheelchair) untie a maile lei dedicating the new Vietnam Map Pavilion at Punchbowl Artist Mary Jacobs (blue dress), Sen. Daniel Akaka and American Battle Monuments Commission Secretary Max Cleland (in wheelchair) untie a maile lei dedicating the new Vietnam Map Pavilion at Punchbowl
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Every year, hundreds of people gather at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl for Veterans Day to honor those who have served in the armed forces. But this year, it was especially significant for those who served in Vietnam.

Among them is former U.S. senator and current secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Max Cleland.

"This memorial behind me and surrounding us here is crowned with the names of heroes from three wars, whose blood gave us freedom and whose courage moved us to greatness," Cleland told the gathering.

Three wars, as the Vietnam War is commemorated alongside World War II and Korea with a new map pavilion at the head of the cemetery.

"They were the greatest of their generation. That's the way I feel," said Cleland. "I'm proud to have served and suffered with them. It's a high honor to dedicate this lasting memorial in their name."

At the Veterans Day ceremony before the dedication, Cleland said the numbers are staggering. "More than nine million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam War. Three and-a-half million served in southeast Asia. Fifty-eight thousand died. Three-hundred thousand were wounded. Twenty-five hundred went missing."

Cleland joined Sen. Daniel Akaka and others in the ceremonial untying of a maile lei to welcome visitors, which included Vietnam veteran Rona Adams. "It makes me -- I get choked up and get chicken skin looking at it because I did two tours over there as an Army nurse. And I see where I was," she said.

Adams, who is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, looked at the glass mosaic maps and pointed to Saigon, where she served. "During the height of the war, there was a sign across the street that said 'Welcome to Sunny Saigon.' It was a big joke," she recalled, laughing.

The maps were created by Mary Jacobs, the same artist who did the other maps of World War II and Korea that were completed in 1971 at the memorial. She explained why, even though she's nearly 90 years old, she agreed to design the new Vietnam maps. "What I tried to do was to show young people and the people in the United States what these men and women did for the United States. For freedom," she said.

The ceremony at Punchbowl included the laying of wreaths from several groups, a flyover of Vietnam War era aircraft, the playing of "Taps," and a "missing man" formation flyover of F-22's from the Hawaii Air National Guard.

"With each passing year, Veterans Day becomes more meaningful to me," said Akaka, who served in World War II. "I feel lucky that I'm an American. And I'm so proud that I'm an American veteran."

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