Hawaii gears up for HMAM[MIGRATE]

By Sgt. Scott Whittington | April 18, 2008

As the fighting continues in Iraq and Afghanistan and troops rotate on and off the islands, the people of Hawaii continue to show their support.  So much so, they’ve dedicated a month to show how much they care.

This year marks the 23rd Annual Hawaii Military Appreciation Month and it’s scheduled to kick off April 24 with opening ceremonies at the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island.  Representatives from each branch of service will be in attendance.  The Honorable Linda Lingle, governor of Hawaii, Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander U.S. Pacific Command, and other distinguished guests will be speaking.

“We are honored to pay tribute to our military and the vial role it plays in preserving the stability and quality of life in our state, our nation and the Pacific Region,” said Al Landon, chairman and CEO, Bank of Hawaii, in a message to the military.

“Mayor (Mufi) Hannemann fully understands the sacrifices and commitment that our Armed Forces provide for the safety and well being of all Americans, and on a personal note, Mayor Hannemann is grateful for the service personnel and dependents who are stationed in Honolulu,” said Dana Takahara-Dias, deputy director, Department of Enterprise Services.

Several of Hawaii’s food service companies will have tents set up and provide free food and drinks to show their thanks to the military.

“I felt honored to be there last year and represent the Marine Corps,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Kernan, administration clerk, S-1, Headquarters and Service Battalion,  U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.  “I really liked that they appreciate us.”

Hawaii’s Chamber of Commerce and other local businesses are hosting the ceremony and coordinated some incentives for the military and their families to include the Combined Military Band concert at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on May 16, the Living History Day at the Hawaii Army Museum at Fort DeRussy on May 17 and the USO Military Day at the Honolulu Zoo goes on June 28.  Last year, more than 8,000 service members and their families took advantage of the free visit to the zoo.

On May 22, event sponsors will recognize an outstanding service member from branch of the armed services and the Hawaii chapter of the Military Officers Association of America will honor one of its members for outstanding community service at the Military Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  During the luncheon, the attendees will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Naval Pacific Fleet.

“Before I got here, I had heard rumors that the military wasn’t really accepted here but that’s not the case,” said Cpl. Casey Atkinson, dispatcher, motor transportation, MARFORPAC and who attended last year’s opening ceremony.  “It’s pretty cool that Hawaii wants to thank us.”

Hawaii is home to the largest combatant command in the world – PACOM.  Also the Pacific headquarters for all four armed services and the U.S. Coast Guard are located here.  With approximately 40,000 active, reserve and national guardsmen, 18,000 military civilians, 55,000 family members and 120,000 retired military living and working on Hawaii’s islands, they all play a major role for the state’s economy, according to the Chamber of Commerce Web site.  According to Charlie Ota, vice president for military affairs, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, the military spends $5.6 billion a year in Hawaii in defense expenses.

“It makes a tremendous impact,” said Ota.  “The military also makes contributions to local charities.”  Ota mentioned the Big Brother, Big Sisters Program, the Great Aloha Run and the Adopt-a-School Program which the military plays a supporting role.

Although the month of May is set aside to recognize the military, Hawaiians show their gratitude throughout the entire year.  A number of businesses give military discounts equal to the kama’ aina (long-time resident) and support Information Tickets and Travel centers here, according to Ota.