By Sheila Gideon (SMDC/ARSTRAT)February 17, 2012
U.S. ARMY KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Marshall Islands - Even torrential rain could not dampen spirits on Ebeye as Marshallese and American guests gathered Feb. 9 to celebrate the 68th anniversary of Kwajalein Atoll Memorial Day. The ceremony was moved inside the Community Center where guests managed to stay relatively dry. Due to the rains, the marching band parade by the Kwajalein Jr./Sr. Band was cancelled. The band, however, still put on a show as guests waited for the ceremony to begin.
Ben "Jerry" Jacklick served as the master of ceremonies. He began by thanking those in attendance. He announced Rev. Lawson Matauto, pastor of Ebeye United Church of Christ, who gave the invocation. Next, the flags of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein Atoll and the United States were raised as each respective anthem was sung or played, courtesy of the Good News Choir and the Kwajalein High School band.
The Mon la Mike Band provided musical entertainment and the Mid-Atoll Corridor Dancers impressed with their routine. The Good News Choir also sang throughout the ceremony.
There were several guest speakers. Kwajalein Atoll Senator/Iroij Michael Kabua spoke first, followed by Chairman/Iroij Kotak Loeak. The newly elected president of the RMI President/Iroij Christopher Loeak spoke next. He was followed by U.S. Ambassador to the RMI Martha Campbell.
"Today, on the 68th anniversary of the liberation of this atoll, it's fitting that we pause to commemorate the important battle and to celebrate the first beginnings of the enduring relationship between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States of America," Campbell began. "Sixty-eight years ago, Marshallese and Americans took the first steps together to rebuild this atoll -- to recover from the fierce battle that had raged just days before." She finished by quoting President Barack Obama, "He said, 'The best way to not feel helpless is to get up and do something. Don't wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope. You will fill yourself with hope.' I hope for all of the best for the people of Kwajalein Atoll."
The next guest speaker was Kwajalein Atoll Minister Tony deBrum. He began by saying it was fitting they all met in the community center because of the rain; that very center was built by RMI's military friends as part of Ebeye development. He thanked Campbell for her kind words. "Your remarks punctuate our willingness, our desire, our ambition to make the relationship [with the U.S.] even ... closer." He thanked both Campbell and U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll Commander Col. Joseph Gaines as it would be their last visit to Ebeye for Memorial Day. He addressed Campbell saying, "During your tour, during your watch, many good things have happened. The extension of the Land Use Agreement and the renewal of the Compact [has sealed] the friendship between ... RMI and the United States. That is not a small accomplishment."
The final speaker of the evening was Kwajalein Atoll Mayor Johnny Lemari. Rev. Kaoru Kaious of the Ebeye Assembly of God, who closed the ceremony with the benediction.