HONOLULU, Hawaii (Oct. 4, 2012) -- With the figure of Lady Columbia in clear view, her arms open wide to embrace the fallen and comfort the mourning, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and its Survivor Outreach Services program held Hawaii's first-ever Gold Star Mother's Day "Lei of Honor and Remembrance Ceremony" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, Sunday.

The service fittingly was held on Gold Star Mother's Day, designated in 1936 by President Franklin Roosevelt as a day to recognize and honor mothers whose son or daughter had died in military service to the U.S.

"America's peace and freedom have come at a high price," said Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, in his address to the audience.

"Nearly 1.2 million Americans have fallen in battle during the 236-year history of our nation. Clearly the defense of freedom is costly," Whitney continued.

"And while Gold Star Mother's Day has been officially observed since 1936, we need to remember that Gold Star families have borne the pains of their losses from the very beginnings of this nation … and so today, the last Sunday in September, we honor all of the Gold Star mothers, and we also honor all members of their Gold Star families -- the fathers, the brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles and cousins and, yes, the keiki," Whitney said.

More than 30 Gold Star mothers and their family members attended the morning's ceremony, carrying with them boots and photographs of the loved ones they have lost.

Those boots later were carried up the long stairway to the Lady Columbia monument and placed to rest under her watchful gaze.

A 10-foot ti leaf lei, interwoven by a second lei made from hundreds of golden origami cranes, also was placed at the feet of the statue as a traditional Hawaiian custom of aloha.

"The bitterest price any country could pay for these selfless sacrifices would be to forget, to do nothing," Whitney said. "But those who died in battle deserve this special honor, and we will never forget them.