Nanette Napoleon walks the grounds of the Oahu Cemetery. A rudimentary plot map shows her that somewhere in the vicinity of where she stands, Private J.R. Kealoha is buried.
There is no headstone to mark the spot.
Little is known about Private Kealoha. All that Napoleon has is his record of death, and information from a newspaper article written in 1865.
"He actually served under a different name, as many of the Hawaiians did. Instead of Kealoha, he would have been given a nom de' guerre, which is a name that's usually for the Hawaiians one that was easier to pronounce" said her research partner, Dr. Justin Vance.
Nonetheless, Napoleon and Vance have recently finished paperwork petitioning the U.S. Veterans Administration for a military headstone on behalf of Kealoha.
His is a tale like many others that the two have uncovered over the years. They have identified 119 soldiers from Hawaii who participated in the conflict.
"Most of our guys served in the Union army, but not all of them. Some of them in the Confederate Navy" noted Napoleon.
It's these stories Napoleon, Vance and Todd Ocvirk are bringing to light in the upcoming documentary "Hawai'I Sons of the Civil War".
Their motivations are simple.
"Those from Hawaii who served in the war have been forgotten. I'd say since the 1870's until the 2000's" said Vance.
While still in the fundraising stage, the trio hopes to have the film debut in 2015—during the 150-year anniversary of the end of the war.
They are also hoping their petition to have Kealoha receive a headstone will be accepted by then.
While that is a major goal of their, Napoleon is quick to note that it's not the only one.
"That's one of our ‘Holy Grails'; to find a descendant of this Kealoha".
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