Memorial Day ceremonies at Punchbowl honor fallen service members

Memorial Day ceremonies at Punchbowl honor fallen service members
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 2,000 people gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Punchbowl on Monday to commemorate those who serve -- and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service.

This year was all the more poignant because it marks the 50th anniversary of the official start of the Vietnam War.

"This is a great event that should be repeated so we don't ever forget that the soldier, sailor, marine, Air Force airman, and Coast Guard are doing a job that our nation has called them to do," said Vietnam War veteran S. "Joe" Estores.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said it's important to say "mahalo" to those who served.

"It's 50 years since the official start of the war in 1967 and we're saying to those who gave their last full measure of devotion in the war in Vietnam, 'We'll never forget,'" he said.

Many believe those who served and died in that conflict were never properly thanked. Caldwell said Monday's ceremony was also about coming together.

"The Vietnam War is a war that did divide our country. Probably more so than any war since the Civil War. So this was about coming together and remembering," he said.

Estores added, "Since then, the nation has turned it over and is now being grateful to all of us and that is important."

For Christina Cao, Monday's commemoration hit close to home.

"I cried when I heard our Vietnamese National Anthem. That was a very, very special moment for me. I just could not hold my tears," Cao said.

Some 38,000 American flags and lei were also placed next to the graves within the cemetery.

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