By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
MAKAWAO, Hawaii. —It was a tribute to the doughboys. With flowers and a lei of tea leaves, the soldiers of the Forgotten War paid a lasting tribute to their brethren from World War I, who served in the muddy trenches of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. On July 24, the Maui No Ka Oi Chapter 282 of the Korean War Veterans Association and descendents of World War I soldiers dedicated a monument at the Makawao Veterans Cemetery.
“It is important that we never forget those who have gone before us to ensure that we have our freedoms as we enjoy them today,” said Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares, speaking before a gathering of 200 veterans and their families. The dedication ceremony took place in conjunction with a Korean War veterans reunion held in Kahului.
The effort brought together soldiers from two different eras. Clarence Okamura, who headed up the memorial committee, said the veterans decided to build the World War I monument after construction of their memorial to the Korean War in 2007. With no World War I veterans still alive, they recruited the families of the doughboys in the effort.
“This brings it home and really helps me look back at some of the roots that I have,” said Hilton Unemori, whose grandfather was a private during World War I. “My paternal grandfather served as a private in company D 2nd Hawaii Infantry July 22, 1918, almost 93 years ago at the age of 30 and already he was married. He was honorably discharged on Feb. 7, 1919 not quite seven months later.”
“I do know he is one of many soldiers who made sacrifices for their country, for the sake of their children and descendents. May this memorial be a reminder of their efforts,” said Unemori.
The rock is embedded with a bronze plaque listing the dates of the war that began on June 28, 1914 and concluded when Germany signed an armistice agreement on Nov. 11, 1918. Called the War to End All Wars during its time, World War I has largely faded from memory.
Tom Kawamoto, whose father Ryo served during World War I, helped to unveil the stone monument, which stands next to the Korean War Memorial at Makawao Veterans Cemetery. A veteran of the Military Intelligence Service, he was one of seven brothers who all served in the military. Kawamoto said his father, who was born in Hana, Maui, didn’t talk about his experience during the war.
“Japanese, they’re something else, they never talked about what they did,” said Kawamoto.
“It goes so far back to the early 1900s, we always come up here to remember, we have relatives all over the place,” he said, pointing towards the cemetery.