Maj. Gen. Tom Solhjem, U.S. Army chief of chaplains, Regimental Sgt. Maj. Ralph Martinez, the Chaplain Corps senior enlisted advisor, and their spouses visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific May 11 in Honolulu.
Solhjem and Martinez cemetery visit was to honor the memory of the nation’s military veterans and learn about previous chaplains that have sacrificed their lives during the wars.
“We have three competencies in the Chaplain Corps, “said Solhjem. “We nurture the living, we care for the wounded and we honor the fallen.”
Together, Solhjem and Martinez laid a bouquet of white flowers, provided by U.S. Army Pacific, at the base of the memorial.
Solhjem mentions that visiting the National Cemetery of the Pacific is a reminder to Service Members and civilians of the sacrifices that others have made.
Following the bouquet laying, Natalie Rauch, the memorial’s facilitator, explained the names engraved on the stones, recognized by the American Battle Monuments Commission, are Service Members that were missing in action, lost or buried at sea during World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War.
She distinguished five names of chaplains that served during the wars. As she told each family’s story, she held up portraits of each chaplain.
“This is simply amazing,” Solhjem said, “Natalie Rauch has done an excellent job in guiding us and helping us understand some of our history of the chaplains who’ve gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Rauch also included the story of her father, Airforce Col. Warren L. Anderson, an F-4 Phantom pilot during the Vietnam War, who is still missing.
“There’s value in telling your story,” Rauch said. Because she shared her story on social media, she was able to meet other family members with Service Members that are still MIA.
One of the chaplains she distinguished, Capt. Joseph E. Kapaun, a chaplain for 8th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, had special recognition amongst all the other chaplains. His name was colored in gold and had a star engraved next to his name. This signified that he was a Medal of Honor recipient. His remains have been recently been found and will be transported to his family. Soon a bronze star will be placed by his name signifying his remains have been recovered and identified.
“Today, we were able to see the marker for Chaplain Kapaun, who’s a medal of honor recipient,” he said, “He’s one of our seven Chaplains who received such distinction who is interned here.”
“Kapaun was a prisoner of war and was an inspiration for the Soldiers to keeps their hopes up during the Korean War,” Rauch said.
“What you do and what you bring, as far as the Chaplain Corps, is to restore hope and keep hope alive during captivity, while you’re deployed or wherever you may be,” Solhjem said.
Martinez explains that it is important to visit the memorial to learn the history and legacy of the men and women who sacrificed their lives in reference to defending the country.
Following up the stairway, they visited the chapel that rests on top of the hill. Alongside the hill, they walked down the “Heroes Walk” memorial pathway to commemorate the Army Chaplain Corps’ memorial marker. Solhjem and Martinez also laid two leis, provided by U.S. Army Pacific, on the marker.
“Today is just a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and that we stand on the shoulders of the freedom that they purchased by laying down their lives,” Solhjem said.