HONOLULU - Marines, airmen, sailors and soldiers could be seen entering the State Capitol building in Honolulu with strong emotions across their faces. The service members gathered with state officials and civilians to honor their fallen comrades during a Hawaii Medal of Honor ceremony, March 27.
The Hawaii State Senate and Hawaii State House of Representatives awarded the Hawaii Medal of Honor to 19 fallen service members. Of the 19 fallen heroes honored, eight medals were presented to members of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
"In offering the Hawaii Medal of Honor to those who gathered here, in memory of those who have fallen, we recognize that they are part of us ... part of our Ohana," said Rep. K. Mark Takai, Chairman for the Committee on Veterans, Military, and International Affairs, and Culture and the Arts. "The medal guarantees that they will never be forgotten. I hope that the children of these heroes will one day appreciate the sacrifices that their fathers and their mothers made on behalf of all of us."
As of Dec. 31, 2012, the state of Hawaii has awarded their Medal of Honor to 327 service members with Hawaii ties. Hawaii is one of three states that honor their fallen service members this way.
"I'm astounded about what the state has done for the military, Marines, soldiers, Coast Guard, everybody," said Tom Logan, who received the Hawaii Medal of Honor on behalf of his son, Marine Cpl. Joseph Logan. "I never realized how much love they have for this country's soldiers. It's a feeling you can't express sometimes."
In 2005, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 21 from House Bill 8, which began the Hawaii Medal of Honor. "The purpose of this Act is to provide for a Hawaii Medal of Honor that would help express the deep appreciation and gratitude of the People of Hawaii to the loved ones of members of the military who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation and its freedoms."
Members of the fallen heroes' units attended the ceremony to show their gratitude and pay tribute to their comrades. The emotions from the guests in attendance were minuet compared to the emotions of the family members.
"The most difficult part of loosing someone is the families with little children," said Takai.
Marine Master Sgt. Travis Riddick's daughter wept as she was presented with her father's medal.
"I hope that in the future, the children will understand how important her father is to many others and people from Hawaii," said Takai.
She was not the only family member whose emotions were evident during the ceremony.
"This ceremony put us over the top," Logan said. "He was our G.I. Joey, that's what we called him. They say the children emulate the parents, I didn't realize it until all this happened what our kids were doing. They were paying attention and I'm grateful for it."
After taking part in the ceremony, Logan was inspired to bring the honor of remembering the fallen to his home state.
"I am going to take this legislation back to Texas," Logan said. "Texas has lost 613 [service members] and California has even more. A lot of families are affected by the loss of a soldier. What happens is a tragedy. With losing a son or daughter, the feelings don't go away, they stay there."
With his military past, Takai has had to deal with the loss of fellow service members.
"We see the pain in both the children and grandparents," Takai said. "The military has been such an important part of our history. Our military is part of our Hawaii Ohana. The state cares about the soldier, the family and the person the family lost. We will continue to do this."