Veterans offering respect for their comrades, living and fallen, at the VFW's 18th annual Veterans Day observance at the Natatorium. -- By Don Machado

Mahalo to all who joined us on Veterans Day 2014! It was a moving and memorable observance. Veterans, serving military members and civilians joined together on the grounds outside the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium to pay tribute to those who have served our country.

We thanked those veterans who were present. We remembered those who have fallen. We honored everyone who has worn the uniform of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

A Floral Tribute to the 10,000

This was the 18th consecutive year that the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8616 has sponsored its Veterans Day ceremony at the Natatorium. It began with the arrival of scores of motorcyclists, organized and led by the veterans of the American Legion Post 17 Riders.

After the presentation of the colors, benedictions, singing and orations, it ended with many members of the audience moving over to decorate the Natatorium gate with 100 lei, each representing 100 of the 10,000 Hawaii volunteers who

A photo album from Veterans Day at the Natatorium.

served in World War I.

News and Photo Coverage

This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of that cataclysmic war; the Natatorium is Hawaii’s official monument to those 10,000 volunteers, including more than 100 who died.

If you weren’t able to be there on Tuesday, or if you’d like to relive a few moments of the Veterans Day observance, you can check out our photos or the news coverage by KHON-TV, KITV and Hawaii Public Radio.

KHON-TV's coverage

Mahalo to those news media outlets for doing their part to honor our nation’s veterans, and especially those in Hawaii.

No more excuses. If you’ve always meant to join the VFW on Veterans Day to honor their comrades at arms, this is the year.

ruck marchers and Wong

Active duty soldiers joined veterans at the Natatorium for the 2013 Veterans Day observance

Why? Because Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8616 annually holds its Veterans Day observance at the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki. Because that special place is Hawaii’s official World War I memorial. And because this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of that terrible global war.

It’s as simple as that. As important as that.

So please join the VFW at the Natatorium on Veterans Day — Tuesday, Nov. 11 — at 11 a.m. We – the Friends of the Natatorium – will be there for this 18th annual ceremony, along with the American Legion Post 17 Riders and other veterans groups.

What Will Happen

The ceremony takes place in the park in the shadow of the Natatorium. VFW members will coordinate the presentation of 100 lei, each representing 100 of the more than 10,000 from Hawaii who volunteered for service in World War I. Poppies, the traditional symbol of World War I remembrance, will be distributed to all present, and a bugler will sound Taps.

Poppies in the fields of Flanders in Belgium are an international symbol of World War I remembrance.

Poppies in the fields of Flanders in Belgium are an international symbol of World War I remembrance.

The Legion riders will roll in on their motorcycles shortly before the ceremony. The riders are members of the American Legion’s John R. Rowe Post 17, named for the first soldier from Hawaii killed in World War I.

Combatants from every major U.S. conflict since World War II will be present. There will be brief remarks honoring the service of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guards throughout U.S. history, with special attention to those from Hawaii and those who served in World War I.

Distinguished speakers

The keynote speaker is Norbert K. Enos, retired U.S. Army sergeant major, veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam and member of the National Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He chaired the special commission that directed creation of the Vietnam Memorial on the grounds of the Hawaii State Capitol.

Also speaking will be Michael Soucie, a Gulf War veteran, senior vice commander of the American Legion, Department of Hawaii, and board member of Friends of the Natatorium. His remarks will be followed by the traditional World War I poem In Flanders Fields, read by David Bond, a pilot, Canadian veteran and countryman of the poem’s author, Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae.

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Lane Martin, the commander of VFW Post 970 and junior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Hawaii, will present closing remarks.

Why November 11?

The armistice that ended World War I’s carnage was signed Nov. 11, 1918, near Compiègne, France, and went into effect later that morning at what has become legendarily known as the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” Originally commemorated as Armistice Day, the date is now known in the United States as Veterans Day, honoring former U.S. service members of all wars.

Can’t attend?

If you cannot be there at 11 a.m., stop by the Natatorium at any time on Nov. 11. Reflect and leave lei or flowers in honor of Veterans Day and the 10,000 World War I volunteers from Hawaii. The Natatorium is dedicated to every single one.

How to Get There

Never been to the Natatorium? A map and directions are available here.

We now have a beautiful, informative new brochure on the campaign to preserve, repair and reopen the historic War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki. You can find the publication right here. Twilight falls on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium

You’ll soon start to see this brochure at Friends of the Natatorium events around town. But why not print out a few copies now? Share them with ohana and friends. You can help us get the word out.

We’re working to bring the Natatorium back to life because it’s Hawaii’s official monument to more than 10,000 volunteers from the then-territory who responded to the call to serve in World War I. It’s also a beautiful, historic place that reflects so much of what is unique and important about the culture of Hawaii.

It’s an American Treasure

The National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees. Earlier this year, the trust named the Natatorium one of America’s Treasures. Together with the Friends, the Trust sees this moment as a “window of opportunity” to renew and reopen this amazing place. The Trust produced the new brochure to explain why it’s so important to take advantage of that opportunity and how we can do it.

Spread the Word

Let’s spread the word, and let’s get this done.

Here again is the link to a PDF file: Natatorium Brochure

Mahalo to the National Trust. And mahalo to you.

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