(KHNL)--Thousands of people gathered in Waikiki Saturday to salute Hawaii's troops. Prior to the festival 5,000 military personnel including hawaii reservists and veterans marched down Kalakaua Avenue as folks cheered them on to show their appreciation. Staff Sgt. Richard Arbys and his family enjoyed the day at the park.
Marine wife Emily Arbys says the event was a chance, "To just spend some family time and have fun." The Arbys family are among some twenty thousand military families taking part in the salute to our troops event put on by the U.S.O. Organization.
"They've been away from their families for 15 months and then some of them will do it again. We have the schofield and the 25th infantry leaving this summer. So it's a chance to bid them well and say we'll be here when you get back," says Cassandra Isidrio, U.S.O. Hawaii Director.
The non-profit organization originally planned a smaller event to say thanks to hawaii's military but it turned into a five hundred thousand dollar celebration as more folks got involved, including the state.
"U.S.O. is putting on a great event, the state legislature is supporting it. It's just an all around great community day and a chance for us to walk around and say thank you for your service," Governor Linda Lingle.
"It's a good experience being able to see the community come out here and supports us on what we do, Marine Staff Sgt. Richard Arbys.
More than 20,000 food vouchers were given to military personnel and their families. A small gift for those who defend our country.
"The gathering of all the services. Its nice, you don't get to too often," Marine Sgt. Michael Harek.