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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The longtime director of Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, said aloha today after 24 years.
Gene Castagnetti didn't want any fanfare, although that's exactly what he's carefully choreographed for countless veterans since 1989.
Whether saluting Medal of Honor recipients, or showing the President and First Lady to their seats at the Memorial for Senator Daniel Inouye, Castagnetti has helped honor fellow veterans with dignity for 24 years.
Welcoming Japan's Emperor and Empress in 2009 was a highlight. "They brought with them the spirit of healing and reconciliation in their hearts" says Castagnetti. "In that way they paid tribute to the American veterans. We've made the cemetery an international symbol of selfless sacrifice. I think that's the highlights. I've had a small way of contributing."
The humble retired Marine Colonel was often seen tending to VIPS, but Castagnetti took particular pride in giving all veterans, no matter rank or branch, a distinguished farewell.
In the end, that's what the 75 year old will miss most. In his words, "Being able to help a family during that time of grief when they're going to provide the final resting place for that veteran and making sure it's done with dignity and honor."
Punchbowl has not named a successor yet. In the meantime, there will be an interim director.