By Léo Azambuja
This year’s Veterans Day will mark one hundred years of Armistice Day, the date that would eventually become the official holiday honoring those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. For the Kaua‘i community, this year’s holiday has an additional special meaning — the Veterans Day Parade will return to Kapa‘a, after being held in Lihu‘e for the last couple years.
“We’re back in Kapaa, and we are very grateful the Kaua‘i Business Association stood up and said, ‘We’re going to help you put this parade on,’” said Mary Kay Hertog, commander of the Kaua‘i Veterans Council and a retired general who served for nearly 34 years.
For more than three decades, the Veterans Council has been organizing the parade. But Hertog said many of the veterans are getting older, and it has become increasingly more difficult to put the event together. It got to the point that the parade was at risk of not happening anymore, but thanks to KBA’s help, the tradition will continue this November.
“The parade starts at All Saints Church, continues on to Downtown Kapa‘a and ends at Kapa‘a Beach Park,” said parade liaison and army veteran Russell Maeda, adding the parade’s grand Marshall is U.S. Coast Guard veteran James Jung, recently honored by the Kaua‘i Museum as one of Kaua‘i’s Living Treasures. Also, Maeda said, one of the key features this year is Honolulu’s Pacific Fleet Band.
On Nov. 11, 1918, the Allies of World War II and Germany signed an armistice in France. The date became known and celebrated as Armistice Day. Over the years, it became a holiday honoring all veterans, and in 1954, U.S. Congress officially changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day. Veterans Day will be celebrated Sunday, Nov. 11, with the federal holiday being observed the following day. But the parade will be a week earlier, Saturday, Nov. 3.
It will be a full day in Kapa‘a. KBA President Mike Hough said the day includes three consecutive events. The Veterans Day Parade starts at 9:30 a.m. at All Saints Church, and continues through Kuhio Highway to Kapa‘a Beach Park, where the celebrations will go on until noon. From 1 to 4 p.m., a mini Coconut Festival will take place at the park. Then from 5 to 9 p.m., the monthly Art Walk takes off throughout Old Kapa‘a Town.
“It has become an event that people just flock to it,” Hough said of the Art Walk. “It’s a street walking affair. You’ll find performers on the street, you’ll find crafters, goods for sale, food, a variety of different things — and a lot of people.”
Many businesses, groups and associations take part in the parade, with walking units or floats. There will be several major hotels, the Lihu‘e Business Association, Civil Air Patrol, Kaua‘i Fire Department, Kaua‘i Military Affairs, Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, hula halaus, AARP chapters, boy and girl scouts, school bands, Junior ROTC from various school, motorcycle clubs, stables, Taiko drummers and many more. The Kaua‘i Police Department will be redirecting traffic to the Kapa‘a Bypass during the parade.
“This year’s theme is ‘Duty, Honor, Country,’ to recognize the Kaua‘i veterans and their families — you cannot forget their families,” Hertog said. “I don’t think a lot of people know, but we have over 5,000 veterans living here on this island; living and working here on this island. They are part of the community.”
She said there are still have several World War II veterans alive, women and men, on Kaua‘i. The oldest veteran living here is about 105 years old, she said.
Additionally, here on Kaua‘i, we are represented by almost every major conflict the United States has been in, according to Hertog (the last WWI veteran from the U.S., Frank Woodruff Buckles, died Feb. 27, 2011 at 110 years old). A couple years ago, the parade honored all generations, with several grand Marshalls honoring each generation of veterans.
Hertog said we have been in the longest wars in U.S. history — Afghanistan and Iraq. The Veterans Council is trying to attract younger veterans from this generation, but she is aware they are busy with their young families and jobs. Nonetheless, the parade is a great reminder of what they have done and what they have sacrificed for their country, she said.
KBA Vice President Bob Bartolo, a retired 2nd lieutenant, said the children love the parade. They are given flags and really get involved in the event.
Hertog said people from all walks of life, all services and generations come to the parade, and it is “a great opportunity to say thank you” to our veterans.
Maeda said the parade is also possible thanks to grants from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the County of Kaua‘i-Office of Economic Development, and the Kaua‘i Police Department.
The Kaua‘i Veterans Council is also involved in the renovations of the Kaua‘i Veterans Museum. The museum in the Veterans Center in Lihu‘e shut down in January for renovations and depends on volunteer work and fundraising. Museum Director Bart Thomas said they put all artifacts in storage, retiled the floors, painted the walls, and did a lot of termite-damage control. The tentative date for the museum’s reopening is next summer.
The fundraising events for the museum include classic Kaua‘i-made movie screenings such as Donovan’s Reef, Mash and South Pacific, and a Broadway-style musical event starting early next year, with numbers from Hamilton, South Pacific, Miss Saigon and Civil War.
Visit www.kauaiveteranscenter.org or call 246-1135 for more information.