MAKAWAO - Maui's war veterans and their families were honored Sunday with a memorial service at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao that drew a crowd of about 150 people.
"As we celebrate Veterans Day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of each year, those who have served in the past and the thousands of others in uniform today who continue to serve, we remember them for their selfless contributions and sacrifices to our nation," said retired Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, a special guest speaker at the event, which was sponsored by the Maui Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
Taguba, one of only two Filipino-Americans to reach the rank of general, was raised in Hawaii and graduated from Leilehua High School. The retired Army general is most known for documenting chilling prisoner abuses at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in a 2004 investigation. The classified report was eventually leaked, sparking controversy about the treatment of prisoners at the formerly American-run prison.
Robert “Sam” Fevella leads a salute tribute to the Korean War Memorial Monument at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao on Sunday. Fevella is president of the Maui Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, which sponsored the memorial event Sunday.
The Maui News / NANEA KALANI photo
In 2006, he was ordered, without explanation, to retire within a year, Taguba said in a 2007 interview with The New Yorker. The following year, he accused the Bush administration of war crimes in a preface to a report by Physicians for Human Rights.
Regardless of how his 34-year military career ended, Taguba's remarks Sunday focused on gratitude and respect for the nation's armed forces.
He said the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms to protect one's country.
He said his son is continuing a "proud family tradition" of service, having fought in Iraq and recently returned from Afghanistan, and noting his father, Tomas, who served in World War II and the Korean War.
He spoke to the importance of not only remembering the service of veterans, but ensuring care for veterans and their families, including a "new generation of veterans" coming out of America's more recent wars.
"Our nation now has a new generation of veterans, thousands of men and women who have served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," Taguba said. "Hawaii's young men and women have contributed to this generation, and I know our home state will continue to (respond) to the call of duty. So my personal and sincere thanks to the great war veterans in the Maui community."
Taguba, who now resides in northern Virginia, said he made the trek to Maui at the persistence of Maui's veterans community.
"It's hard to turn down an invitation from a community that wants attention from someone from the outside to, so to speak, honor them with my presence," he said after Sunday's ceremony. "But it's been exactly the opposite. I'm so honored by being here in their presence."
He added that it was also a "good excuse to come home" to Hawaii.
Mayor Alan Arakawa expressed gratitude for the security the military provides.
"We know for a certainty that for all of us, the quality of life that we have, we owe the veterans and their families every bit of respect that we can muster for every day that we live here on our islands enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the beauty that we have around us," Arakawa said. "Because without their sacrifices, we may not have these privileges."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.