HONOLULU -- In a special joint session of the Hawaii State Senate and the Hawaii House of Representatives, the legislature gathered, Tuesday, to present the Hawaii Medal of Honor (HMOH) to the families of Hawaii's fallen war heroes.

They were Soldiers from divergent backgrounds serving in differing capacities in the various branches of the military.

While their time spent in Hawaii varied -- three were keiki o ka aina -- they all had strong connections to the islands, and when their life and service to their country was cut short, Hawaii did not forget the sacrifice they made or the depth of their courage and commitment to duty.

The HMOH is awarded on behalf of the people of the state to honor those with Hawaii ties who are killed in action while serving as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We wanted to show our deepest gratitude and respect to the families, friends and loved ones of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending our country," said state Rep. Mark Takai. "While there is much debate for and against the Iraq war, there is no debate about the tremendous sacrifices made by our service members and their families."

The HMOH was presented to four recipients and 10 Hawaii Gold Star Families in attendance. Former recipient families of the HMOH were also recognized.

"Trying to comfort a bereaving family is perhaps the hardest task I've ever had to perform in my four decades of service in uniform," said Maj. Gen. Darryl D.M. Wong, Hawaii Adjutant General. "Yet, that task pales in comparison to the burden of a family that has lost a loved one."

Recipients of the medal include service members who were either residents of the state, attended an educational institution in Hawaii or were stationed in Hawaii by order of the Department of Defense.

"In offering the Hawaii Medal of Honor to those who will gather here in memory of those who have fallen, we recognize that they are part of us … part of our ohana," Takai said.

"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," Takai added.