REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF REP. K. MARK TAKAI – The Hawaii State Senate and Hawaii State House of Representatives will convene in a special joint session to recognize military service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The families of these fallen service members will all receive the Hawaii Medal of Honor on behalf of their loved ones.
The Special Joint Session of the Legislature is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 2 p.m. in the House Chambers.
In 2005, the Legislature passed House Bill 8, which created the Hawaii Medal of Honor (HMOH). This special medal is awarded on behalf of the people of the State of Hawaii to an individual who was killed in action while serving our country as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Recipients of the medal include members of the United Armed Forces, the United States Military Reserves, and the Hawaii National Guard, who were residents of the State of Hawaii, attended an educational institution in Hawaii, or were stationed in Hawaii by order of the United States Department of Defense.
As of December 31, 2011, Hawaii has lost 308 service members with Hawaii ties, who have sacrificed their lives, while in the line of duty. A listing of those service members who will be recipients of the HMOH is attached.
“The effort to identify those eligible for the medal has taken many months,” said Rep. K. Mark Takai. “Working with all the branches of the military, we worked extremely hard to identify each servicemember who sacrificed their lives,” Takai said.
The primary next of kin and their families for each servicemember has been invited to attend. People from across Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland, from towns like Harrisonburg, Virginia; Cameron, North Carolina; and Kamuela, Hawaii, are expected to attend.
“In offering the Hawaii Medal of Honor to those who will gather here, in memory of those who have fallen, we recognize that they are part of us . . . part of our ohana,” Takai said. “The Medal guarantees that they will never be forgotten. I hope that the children of these heroes will one day appreciate the sacrifices that their fathers and their mothers made on behalf of all of us,” Takai added.
The Joint Session will be broadcast live throughout the state via public access television.
Here are Rep. Takai’s floor remarks about the event:
Floor Remarks: HCR 35
February 1, 2012
Representative K. Mark Takai
Mr. Speaker, I speak in strong support of this measure.
In 2005, the Legislature passed Act 21, establishing the Hawaii Medal of Honor. I recall thinking how we as a state and as the Hawaii State Legislature needed to support the families of our fallen heroes. The Hawaii Medal of Honor was our way of expressing our deepest appreciation to these brave service men and women. We offer this honor as a small token that can never in itself repay the honor that has been given us. An honor borne of courage, driven by duty, and paid for in loss.
The Hawaii Medal of Honor is reserved for those who have touched our islands, and have felt the touch of our people. These medals symbolize our aloha; our farewell to those we have lost. But also our love for those who have lived among us, touched us, and sacrificed for us. And our enduring welcome for all represented here today, the fallen and their families, who will be counted among us forever.
And in offering it to those that will gather here, in memory of those who have fallen, we recognize that they are a part of us. Wherever each of these medals finds its final home, a piece of our hearts goes with it. They will always be a part of our ohana, our family, because they have brought us honor, and allowed us to share these lives. While this medal can’t take away the pain of losing a loved one, it shows that Hawaii will never forget them.
A grateful state best honors and remembers the sacrifices of those who have served our nation by living our lives in deepest appreciation of our freedom. That is what they defended. That is what they fought and died for.
It has been almost nine years since the Wars on Terrorism began. Between March 29, 2003 and December 31, 2011, we in Hawaii have lost 308 service members. We lost a 24 service members this past year.
Here are some of their stories:
Kraig Vickers, a 1992 graduate of Maui High School and a Maui Interscholastic League defense football player of the year, was among 30 Americans who died in a U.S. military helicopter shot down during fighting in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. Vickers was 36 years old. He was the husband to Nani Vickers and father of two young children and one that was about to be born. But he was there, in country, part of a Navy Bomb Disposal Team. He was one of the twenty of the Navy SEALS killed that were part of the naval Special Warfare Development Group. Their deaths are believed to be the greatest single loss of life ever suffered by the U.S. special operations community in the 24-year history of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Tied to this story is the fact that the Chinook helicopter that went down was part of the replacement unit for the Hawaii National Guard’s B Company whose members reunited with family and friends at the Wheeler Army Airfield on August 10, 2011. Had the soldiers with B Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment stayed in Afghanistan just weeks longer, the ill-fated mission to deliver those Navy SEALs and others troops would likely have been theirs.
Four soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii died on May 23, 2011 in Nari District, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. They were Staff Sergeant Kristofferson B. Lorenzo, Specialist William S. Blevins, Private First Class Andrew M. Krippner and Private First Class Thomas C. Allers. These four brothers, forever tied in death, paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.
Army Staff Sergeant Joseph J. Altmann was killed in action of Christmas Day – December 25, 2011 – when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was 27.
One issue that we still have unresolved is whether or not to honor those who death is the result of self-inflicted action or suicide. Since the inception of this medal, eleven service members died while in country because of self-inflicted wounds or unspecified reasons. Over the past year, there have been three deaths some would feel were unnecessary. All were in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Marine Corps Lance Corporal Harry Lew of Santa Clara, California died on April 3, 2011. He was 21. Army Specialist Brian D. Riley Jr. of Longwood, Florida died on May 15, 2011. He was 24. Army Specialist Jinsu Lee of Chatsworth, California died on August 5, 2011. He was 34.
Their stories vary but the result are the same. For this reason, the remaining question lingers – would they have died in they were not in that there at that time and in those circumstances and condition of war?
By this concurrent resolution, Mr. Speaker, this year’s Hawaii Medal of Honor will be awarded to family representatives of these fine men and women at a ceremony held during a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 2 p.m. in this Chamber. Families will be invited from far-off towns like Blairstown, New Jersey and Rosemount, Minnesota to as close as Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and Kokomo on Maui to attend this ceremony.
We honor the family, friends and colleagues of the fallen who have sacrificed, who have themselves paid a price, and who helped make this year’s honorees the brave, strong individuals that we called on and counted on to serve our nation.
I urge passage of House Concurrent Resolution 35. Thank you. Mr. Speaker.
2012 HAWAII MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
United States Army Corporal Andrew C. Wilfahrt
United States Army Staff Sergeant Mark C. Wells
United States Army Sergeant Kevin W. White
United States Army Private First Class Thomas C. Allers
United States Army Specialist William S. Blevins
United States Army Private First Class Andrew M. Krippner
United States Army Staff Sergeant Kristofferson B. Lorenzo
United States Marine Corps Private First Class Josue Ibarra
United States Army Private First Class Joshua L. Jetton
United States Army Specialist Levi E. Nuncio
United States Army First Lieutenant Dimitri A. Del Castillo
United States Army Staff Sergeant Nigel D. Kelly
United States Army Specialist Kevin J. Hilaman
United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Christopher L. Camero
United States Army Staff Sergeant James M. Christen
United States Army Sergeant Jacob Molina
United States Army Sergeant William B. Gross Paniagua
United States Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig M. Vickers
United States Marine Corps Corporal Nicholas S. Ott
United States Army Sergeant First Class Houston M. Taylor
United States Army Staff Sergeant Christopher R. Newman
United States Army Sergeant Christopher L. Muniz
United States Army Specialist Ronald Wildrick
United States Army Staff Sergeant Joseph J. Altmann
This list was compiled by the Office of Rep. K. Mark Takai and is current as of December 31, 2012. The order of listing is by date of death.