This year’s Veterans Day observance at the Natatorium will be a very special one. A dedicated group of active-duty soldiers has planned a strenuous “ruck march” to the War Memorial in Waikiki, where they will join us to honor Hawai’i’s veterans.
The soldiers are inspired to make the 11-mile urban hike to pay tribute to those from Hawai’i who served before them.
They’ll muster early the morning of Monday, Nov. 11, at Hickam Field at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. They’ll move out from there and stomp along the streets of Honolulu, loaded down with 45-pound packs and gear.
Once they reach Kapiolani Park – a motorcycle escort from the American Legion Riders will fall in and accompany them the final length of Kalakaua Avenue to the Natatorium.
Ceremony at the Sacred Hour
Then at the traditional 11 a.m. – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the hour when the armistice ending World War I took effect – the soldiers and bikers will join us for the 17th annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Natatorium.
Veterans Day is Special
Staff Sgt. Leandro Rocha says that he and the men joining him on the march “wanted to do something to honor veterans and remind people that Veterans Day is not just another holiday to have a cookout or go to a store sale.”
“The soldiers involved are not from a combat unit,” Rocha says, “so a ruck march like this is not an easy, routine exercise. We’ve had special workouts for over a month for this march. I’m real proud of everyone for hanging tight with the training and their commitment to do this to honor all Hawai’i veterans.”
Join the Soldiers at the Natatorium
You are more than welcome to join these soldiers and the rest of us at the Natatorium for this moving tribute to those who have served our country, and especially to those veterans living among us in Hawai’i.
And if you’re a motorcyclist interested in joining the Legion Riders, there is more information here.
If you cannot be with us at 11 a.m., stop by the Natatorium at any time on Nov. 11. Leave lei or flowers, or just spend a few moments in reflection, honoring Veterans Day and the more than 10,000 World War I soldiers and sailors from Hawai’i to whom the memorial is dedicated.
The entire event is organized as always by Veterans of Foreign War Post 8616. The Friends of the Natatorium, by the way, are an enthusiastic co-sponsor of this simple, solemn observance at Hawaii’s official World War I memorial, the War Memorial Natatorium.