Thousands of service members, retirees and their families attended Military Appreciation Day June 28 at the Honolulu Zoo.
United Services Organization of Hawaii, the city and county of Honolulu and the Honolulu Zoo, sponsored the event to demonstrate the community’s appreciation for service members and the hardships their families endure.
“It is important to honor our service men and women and their families with a day of food, entertainment and goodwill at one of the wildest places you can go in our community — the Honolulu Zoo,” said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann during a recent news interview. “All of us in Hawaii owe so much to the members of our armed forces and the families that support them.”
During the event, which took place from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., the zoo offered free admission to every valid, military ID card holder, including retirees and their families, and free picnic lunches to the first 8,000 attendees.
The day featured live performances by local musicians, such as the Royal Hawaiian Band, and performances by the Air Force Band of the Pacific “Hanahau.”
“It’s not often that something is completely free to the military and their families,” said Sgt. David Oliver, an administration clerk with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “My family has had a blast and looks forward to what else (the city and USO can) come up with.”
Children had opportunities for face painting, sticker tattooing, a fishing game and coloring stations spread throughout the grounds.
But as expected, families particularly enjoyed seeing all sorts of wild and exotic creatures and interacting with farm animals at the Keiki Zoo, a children’s petting zoo on the grounds.
“My family and I just love the whole thing,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Carro, master at arms for Naval Station Pearl Harbor Hawaii’s Harbor Patrol. “My daughter’s been making animal noises all day and it’s been great getting away from work and spending time with my family. I just really want to thank the USO for putting this all together.”
But it was the USO that wanted to thank Carro and his fellow service members.
“We just really wanted to say thank you,” said Karen Finley, one of 200 USO volunteers at the event. “Military people and their families give up so much for us. We just felt it was time for us to do something where they could have some fun.”