First and foremost, our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives, and/or had their worlds turned upside down yesterday, by a horrific, senseless, and cowardly act of terrorism committed in the heart of Boston, MA - UNITED States of America.
Above the city of Honolulu, cradled within the rim of an extinct volcano known locally as Punchbowl Crater, sits the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - 112+ acres of solemn and sacred beauty.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is one of two hallowed resting places for the recovered remains of World War II dead. Punchbowl is now filled to capacity with 33,000+ grave sites and, since August 1, 1991, burials have been at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, on the island of Oahu.
The impressive Honolulu Memorial, situated in the heart of the cemetery, was dedicated on May 1, 1966. It was erected to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean Conflict. In 1980, it was enlarged to include the missing of the Vietnam Conflict. The memorial overlooks the graves area of the cemetery, and consists of a non-sectarian chapel, two map galleries, and a monumental staircase leading from the crater floor to the Court Of Honor and Courts of the Missing.
The tower, which houses the chapel, features a 30-foot female figure, known as Columbia, standing on the symbolized prow of a U.S. Navy vessel. Below the figure is the poignant sympathy expressed by President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons in battle during the Civil War.
Recorded in the ten Courts of the Missing that flank the massive staircase, are the names of 18,094 World War II heroes missing in action (MIA) or lost or buried at sea in the Pacific (excluding the Southwest Pacific and the Palau Islands - the MIA's from these areas are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery). There are also 8,195 listed from the Korea Conflict, and 2,489 from the Vietnam Conflict - 28,778 names, in total.
Map galleries extend from both sides of the tower, and contain beautiful stone inlaid maps and texts recording the achievements of the American Armed Forces in the central and south Pacific regions, as well as Korea.
As we were leaving the cemetery that day, we realized that there was a walking trail leading from behind the Memorial, up a hill. Parking the car, and talking a slow, reflective walk up the paved path, led us to various small remembrances along the way...
and an incredible overlook of Honolulu from one side, and the humbling cemetery below, from the other. A large stone memorial at the top commemorates and remembers "United States military personnel captured by the Japanese in 1942, and forced to work on the Siam-Burma “Death Railway” as POW’s. 133 died due to malnutrition, tropical disease, starvation, medical neglect, and other causes".
"This is not a bivouac of the dead. It is a colony of Heaven, and some part of us all is buried here."
From a small stone memorial aside the walking trail that day..."These words were spoken by the 6th Marine Division Chaplain at our cemetery on Okinawa in 1945"...
Last stop of the Oahu island tour will be the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Until next week, may you and your loved ones stay safe, be happy, and remember those who have sacrificed all, and continue to give, to this day, for our freedoms.