By Maj. Karen Roxberry, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public AffairsNovember 17, 2017
WAIANAE, Hawaii -- Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau was the first Hawaiian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valiant actions in defending his position on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War.
Pililaau's hometown is Waianae and his legacy lives on in the Pililaau Army Recreation Center (PARC), a beach rental named in his honor, which looks over the scenic Pokai Bay.
On Nov. 11, PARC served as the perfect gathering place for the local community for a Veteran's Day Ceremony to honor the service and sacrifice of all who have served.
Hosted by Oahu's Leeward Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Post 849, the ceremony began with a deep silence as a wreath was laid on the Veteran's Memorial Monument that sits at PARC.
"We came up with this event here about ten years ago and we wanted to have a small gathering to honor our veterans," said Rocky Naeole, Commander of V.F.W Post 849 and Vietnam War veteran. "We cannot ask for more -- being American, our Soldiers sacrificing their lives; we thank you for their service."
Cadets from Nanakuli High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps proudly carried the colors for the ceremony.
Hawaii State Senator for District 21, Sen. Maile Shimabukuro attended the ceremony and provided opening remarks, thanking all veterans for their sacrifice and service.
Soldiers from 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division were invited as guest speakers for the ceremony.
"Our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifice and step forward and say I'm ready to serve," said Sgt. Maj. Bobby Holt, Operations Sergeant Major for 2IBCT and a graduate of Nanakuli High School. "Veterans Day is a way that we honor these sacrifices, your presence here today is a way to say thank you."
Spc. Kananikapuamaluhia Samson assigned to Delta Troop, 2nd Squadron 14th Calvary Regiment delivered emotional remarks about her family of veterans.
"Coming from a family of veterans and witnessing my father's dedication to the service first hand showed me the sacrifice of being in the service at a young age," said Samson. "If you ask me what Veterans Day means to me? It means thanking all of you who have paved the way for me and all my brothers and sisters in arms to serve."
The ceremony also invoked a sense of home town pride by honoring and highlighting the local veterans that are tied to Leeward Coast and received the highest military honors.
Don Arakaki, President of the Waianae Rotary Club and a Vietnam War veteran, explained that Waianae has direct ties to three Medal of Honor recipients: Yeiki Kobashigawa and Shinyei Nakamine from World War II as well as Herbert Pililaau from the Korean War.
Arakaki added that not only is PARC named in honor of Pililaau, but his presence extends to Makua Military Reservation live-fire training range and a Naval Strategic Sealift ship, the USNS Pililaau also named in his honor.
"Waianae is a small country town but we hold three Medal of Honor recipients," added Naeole. "In Waianae, we not only build Soldiers, but we build strong men and women; we are combat tested."