276 Hawaiian Heroes

Hawaiian Tropical Flowers in Memory of 276 Hawaiian Heroes, Memorial Day 2012
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Hawaiian Tropical Flowers in Memory of 276 Hawaiian Heroes, Memorial Day 2012

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  This weekend in Honolulu and indeed across America many of us will take some time to remember Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.   Memorial Day is a day unlike any other. Since 1868 we have come together in our communities, towns and villages, to place flowers and flags on the graves of those who have given their last full measure of devotion to our country. We gather together to remember and honor those who have done their duty, as God allowed them to see that duty.

Memorial Day is about much more than picnics and ballgames. But neither is it an unqualified endorsement of American society as we know it. These brave soldiers, sailors, fliers and marines died protecting their country and what it stood for. They died defending a way of life that they felt was worth dying for … families, children, freedom, morality, values, and responsibility.


What we all need to do is take some time over this weekend and examine our hearts and souls to see what we are doing with the bloodstained legacy that these men and women have left behind. Did those valiant Marines at Iwo Jima make their sacrifice so that sacramental union could be redefined as same sex marriage? Did our Revolutionary War heroes go into battle for the right of mothers to kill their unborn children? Did men die in the trenches at Argonne so that man-boy love could be protected? Did 276 of Hawaii’s fighting men and women die so I would have to put a disclaimer at the end of this article in case, heaven forbid, I should offend someone by sharing these thoughts?

Today, America is busy finding new ways to pleasure itself, new ways to avoid responsibility, new ways to destroy the family and isolate and marginalize those who call for morality and personal responsibility. On this most solemn holiday, we must stop and consider the great sacrifices that others have made so that we may have the freedom and prosperity we enjoy. Let us consider what those valiant warriors were fighting for…and let us honor each and every one of them…with a prayer, and a pledge to restore to this nation the honor, morality, values and love of God for which they gave their lives.

Today we recall the names of men like JAMES GABRIEL JR, Medal of Honor, first native Hawaiian to be killed in Vietnam.   Platoon Sergeant (then S/Sgt.) ELMELINDO R. SMITH, born and raised on Oahu, received the Medal of Honor.  His wife is buried beside him at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the only wife of a Medal of Honor recipient to be buried beside her husband under her own eligibility; she also served in the U.S. Army. We also remember SERGEANT FIRST CLASS YANO, another Hawaiian born soldier, who served in the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. On January  1st 1969, near Bien Hoa in the Republic of Vietnam, Yano was acting as a helicopter crewmember when a white phosphorus grenade exploded inside the aircraft. Despite being mortally wounded in the blast, Yano proceeded to throw the remaining ammunition off the helicopter, as flaming fragments of the grenade were causing it to detonate

In remembering these men, let us also call to mind the others of the 276 Hawaiian Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen who gave their lives.

And I echo this sentiment, with respect for those who withstood the rigors and threats of battle, if for just a time, to provide each of us with the opportunity for life. And while the loss of life did not deter them, the thought of liberty and freedom was sufficient to see them march on to the fighting objective. And it is each of us who owe them the respect for what they did; the honor for their service, and the commitment to support their comrades should duty call.


So let us pause with respect and honor on this Memorial Day to remember those who fought, for those who gave their life, and for those who willingly stand ready today to do the same, without question, when the defense of freedom calls on them. We owe each of them the highest regard, respect, and honor – and the assurance that their commitment to this Nation’s freedom will never be forgotten.


How is it possible to honor such men and women, both the dead and living?


Perhaps we cannot do any better than to call them the Greatest Generation of the greatest country in the world.


Perhaps we should make certain that their stories are told to the young.


Perhaps we should try to imitate both their purposes and lives, in both peace and war.


Perhaps we should just sincerely thank them for making sure that this island of liberty would continue.


Perhaps we should just say this, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln: “Gold is good in its place; but living, brave patriots are better than gold.”


We are in your debt and we thank you. May God always bestow His blessings upon you.



The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external.  Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.