Punchbowl Crater from Tantalus Drive in Oahu
Punchbowl Crater from Tantalus Drive in Oahu

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  Within a few short weeks Honolulu will have the privilege of hosting the largest gathering of Medal Of Honor recipients this country has ever seen.  It is likely to be the last gathering of this size.  Age is taking its toll on these veterans.

When you look at these men, you see the United States of America, the greatest republic on earth, the country that can meet any situation when it becomes necessary.

These men were doing their duty. They didn’t think they were being heroes. They didn’t think they were doing anything unusual. They were just doing what the situation called for.

Those who love peace most are those who serve in the Armed Forces and whose lives would first be lost if conflict occurs. But we know that peace can best be preserved by maintaining the strength of our Nation. We must be strong enough militarily, we must have a strong commitment of the American people, and there must be a demonstrable will to defend freedom in order to prevent war.

There’s an ancient saying: “Heroes have the whole world for their tomb and in lands far from their own.” Of all the nations on earth, surely this is most true of our America.

But numbers alone cannot adequately chronicle this nation’s sacrifice.  Whilst we honor the Medal of Honor recipients who will become part of our Ohana we must never forget each of the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each of them had a family and friends whose lives were enriched by their love and diminished by their loss. Each added to the life of a city suburb or country town. Each worked before enlistment, as a teacher, a farmer, a laborer, a nurse, a doctor, a clerk, or one of countless other occupations which add to the prosperity and the richness of a nation.

And yet, although denied the full span of human existence, who can doubt their achievement.

These were Americans whose lives were lived in deeds, not years, in sacrifice, not heartbeats in service, not the turned pages of a calendar.

These men and women, these strangers from another time, have given us a legacy from the past on which to build the future. It is a legacy of gifts of determination, of compassion and self-confidence, but most of all, of service.

To help in perpetuating the deeds of America’s Medal of Honor recipients the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, in conjunction with the Oahu Veterans Council, Navy League, DAV and the Hawaii Youth Challenge is sponsoring an essay contest open to all JROTC, Sea Cadet and Hawaiian Youth Challenge students in the State of Hawaii, grades 10-12.  The theme of the essay is: “WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF A MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT.”

LENGTH OF THE ESSAY is: 500 original words. DEADLINE is: noon September 21, 2012.  Each school or educational institution is to determine its winner; all winners will be submitted to a panel of judges chosen by the Oahu Veterans Council who will make the final decisions.  CASH PRIZES are: $1,000 for 1st place; $500 for 2nd place; and $250 for 3rdplace. The Cash Prizes and Honorable Mention Awards will be presented by a Medal of Honor recipient at a public ceremony at Punchbowl, during the week of October 6, 2012.

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