Sharing Mana‘o

With Halloween a week away, the holiday season is about to begin. No, I’m not going to rant about the ever-increasing commercialization of Christmas, or folks who put up their trees and lights weeks before Thanksgiving. I am, however, concerned about one particular casualty of early-onset yuletide.

Over the past decade or so, Veterans Day seems to have fallen between the cracks of our obsession with the Big Three days of the season. Perhaps they’re still riding a Halloween candy sugar buzz, but I’m always amazed when people ask me why government offices are closed on Nov. 11.

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The official closure came on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. But the fighting had ended earlier, by agreement between the Allied nations and Germany, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, or 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, to be celebrated with parades and public gatherings.

Twenty years after the actual armistice, a Congressional Act designated the 11th of November as a legal holiday, dedicated to the cause of world peace and honoring the veterans of World War I. In 1954, following the Korean War and World War II, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” making Nov. 11 a national day of recognition for American veterans of all wars.

Here at home, the Maui No Ka Oi chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association sponsors an annual memorial ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery in Makawao. In recent years, the Korean vets have partnered with Na Koa Kahiko Wahine, the local women’s veterans group, to organize the event. This year’s program will feature honorary KWVA member Dr. Roger Clow as guest speaker, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11. Following the ceremony, many veterans and their families head to Kalama Park for the traditional Veterans Day picnic, sponsored by the Maui County Veterans Council.

This year, Maui joins the national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War with a “Welcome Home” banquet on Veterans Day, intended to give Vietnam vets the recognition and gratitude they may not have received upon their return. Co-sponsored by Na Koa Kahiko Wahine, Vietnam Veterans of Maui County, the Maui County Veterans Council, AARP and the County of Maui, the gala event will feature a prime rib dinner, pinning ceremony, live entertainment and dancing at the Kahili Golf Course’s Nahale Banquet Room. Vietnam veterans and their guests (one per vet) are invited to attend for free, but preregistration is mandatory. The ticket price for others is $80; table sponsorships are available. The deadline is approaching fast, so if you want to attend, you should sign up right away at aarp.cvent.com/mauivets11-11 or by calling (877) 926-8300, toll-free, or contacting the Vet Center at 242-8557.

If you can’t attend the banquet but would like to help recognize the service and sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans, NKKW is also seeking donations for a silent auction to be held on Nov. 10, at the Lahaina Second Friday town party. Please contact NKKW president, Chelsea Fernandez, at 258-3505 or email nakoakahikowahine@gmail.com.

One hundred years ago, World War I was called “the war to end all wars.” Obviously, it didn’t live up to that title. But I think it’s worth remembering that the original Armistice Day resolution stated, “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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