Community bids aloha to military ohana with parade, festival
WAIKIKI, Hawaii - Honolulu Police lead the a joint service color guard as they make their way down Kalakaua Avenue to begin the Welcome Home Parade for military members during Military Appreciation Day in Waikiki, Saturday.

WAIKIKI, Hawaii - The parade route down scenic Kalakaua Avenue offered plenty of elbow room for the thousands of spectators, but South Korea-based Sgt. 1st Class Robert Alvarez and his newlywed bride, Sarah, clung tightly to each other as they watched the USO\'s Welcome Home Heroes Parade, here, May 22.

They enjoyed the variety of military service members and bands marching past, including the 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning" Band that performs in more than 1,000 events a year.

"I'm impressed with the way the community shows its support," offered Alvarez, who took time during his honeymoon to watch the demonstration.

The day's events were to give a Hawaiian mahalo for those in uniform, family members and veterans, and was organized by USO-Hawaii, the City and County of Honolulu, BAE Systems and TriWest Healthcare.

For crowds that lined the route stretching from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park, the parade provided the opportunity to officially say, "Aloha to Our Military Ohana - Then and Now," the theme of this year's event.

Five-thousand flags were handed out to parade spectators, including Nicholas, Alihah and Antonio Tunjano who eagerly waved their support, while their father, Staff Sgt. Leonardo Tunjano, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th ID, said the event was an awesome show of support.

For the Tunjano family, their day was just beginning as they participated in the range of military family appreciation activities and entertainment in Kapiolani Park.

Military Family Day at the Zoo ran concurrently with the parade and a nearby festival, which contributed to a larger turnout of family members visiting the zoo by midmorning than previous years.

"Based on last year's numbers, zoo officials believe we could top 10,000 military visitors this year," said Helen Gibson-Ahn, a U.S. Army-Pacific employee and zoo volunteer, as military family members streamed through a specially designated side gate entrance.

Meanwhile, across Monsarrat Avenue, the pavilion was alive with music and entertainment, and nearby food booths received brisk business.

Papa John's and USO volunteers handed out thousands of free hot dogs and slices of pizza, more than enough options to keep 11-year-old Emily Bean busy.

For Bean, the day provided a welcome break full of activities while her father serves in Iraq.

Organized, in part, by the Military Affairs branch of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the single-day parade and festival were this year's Hawaii Military Appreciation Month centerpieces.

Page last updated Thu May 27th, 2010 at 23:15