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Hundreds line Waikiki to honor Pearl Harbor veterans in first parade since start of pandemic

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With large event restrictions finally lifted, hundreds lined Kalakaua Avenue to pay respect to the United States’ greatest generation and to commemorate one of history’s most infamous days.

“I feel like I’m among royalty right now,” said Lin Marie Garsee, founder of Quilts for Vets.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade was the first event to roll through Waikiki in nearly two years, paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives during the attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

“I’m very glad that we are able to be here and be a part of it,” said Miyuki Spooner of Kailua. “It’s very nice to get back to some kind of normalcy.”

Hundreds from across the country flew in to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Many were worried the parade would be cancelled as Kalakaua Avenue was underwater Monday evening due to heavy rains brought by a winter storm.

“We were as hopeful as we could be, but I really didn’t think we were going to have it, to be honest,” said band director of Wakesha West High School, Kali Granzow.

“I think they did a good job here, getting together like that,” said WWII veteran, Al Blumer. “The ceremony this morning was great, I enjoyed it.”

Despite COVID and the storm, the event was most meaningful to WWII veterans like Blumer.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and was assigned to the carrier, USS Enterprise. On the day of the attack, he was aboard a ship taking marines to Wake Island. They were delayed by one day and pulled into Pearl Harbor the day after the attack.

“I’ve seen all those ships turned upside down, the Oklahoma turned upside down and everything,” recalled Blumer. “We refuel at night and left the next morning about four in the morning and went out to sea, and we were afraid that the Japanese might come back again and attack.”

Tuesday was also an opportunity to honor these veterans’ service.

The Quilts for Vets organization gave more than 150 handmade quilts to servicemembers.

We looked at COVID initially as it was horrible, but for us, we just made quilts, we didn’t know why and God had a different path for us,” Garsee explained. “Because without us being able to make those quilts for that year that we were all shut down, we wouldn’t be able to bring 150 quilts somewhere.”

Marching bands, cheerleaders and JROTC members from across the country also flew in just to march in the parade.

“It’s such an honor,” said Caroline Ostreicher, member of the Wakesha West High School Marching Band. “I mean, those people served our country so long ago and in one of the biggest wars. It’s just amazing.”

“I’m literally shaking right now, I’m so excited,” said Luke Dabols, who is also a member of the Wakesha West High School Marching Band. “This is like the coolest opportunity in my life.”

“Before the event, we were very worried about COVID, but we continue to track it, the parade organizers were fantastic,” said Buffy Duhon, senior vice president of Varsity Spirit. “Keeping really good conversation and communication with all of us, we felt confident coming over.”

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