134 ARW Airmen Pay Respects at The Punchbowl

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kendra M. Owenby
  • 134 ARW Public Affairs
"The solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom" - This quote by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to Lydia Bixby, a mother who lost five sons to the American Civil War, reads high on a stark white wall overlooking rows of stone markers, many of which are labeled "Unknown".

Just above the inscription stands a statue, laurel branch in hand, on the bow of a ship. She is known as "Lady Liberty" and her purpose is to represent all grieving mothers, standing watch over the fallen in "The Punchbowl".

Members of the 134 ARW Civil Engineer Squadron and Public Affairs recently had the opportunity to pay their respects to fallen service members at "The Punchbowl" in Honolulu, Hawaii while deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is better known to the locals as "The Punchbowl". The memorial earned its name from the fact that it sits in a large inactive volcano crater.

The memorial and cemetery are located on 112 acres inside Puowaina Crater. This national landmark is a tribute to the various battles that were fought in the Pacific and on several of its walls are etched thousands of names representing those who were never recovered in battle.

There are many translations of the Punchbowl's Hawaiian name, "Puowaina" but the most common is "Hill of Sacrifice". This is most fitting since there are approx. 34,000 military members buried here including 13,000 Soldiers and Sailors who died during World War II. A staggering sixty-three of the service members buried here are Medal of Honor recipients.

Honored in the "Courts of the Missing" are 28,778 heroes from WWII, Vietnam, and Korean wars who were designated as Missing in Action, Lost, or Buried at Sea. The "Court of Honor" overlooking the gardens contains a chapel and two map galleries on either side. Inscribed above the map galleries are the names of places of notable significance in the Armed Forces: PEARL HARBOR, WAKE, CORAL SEA, MIDWAY, ATTU, SOLOMONS, GILBERTS, MARSHALLS, MARIANAS, LEYTE, IWO JIMA, OKINAWA, TOKYO, and KOREA.

There are many notable interments at the cemetery. The following are only a few of them:

*Henry Oliver "Hank" Hansen (1919-1945) - Original Iwo Jima flag raiser.
*John J. Hyland (1912-1998) - Admiral and commander of the Pacific Fleet during Vietnam
*Barney F. Hajiro (1916-2011) - WWII Medal of Honor recipient
*Daniel Inouye (1924-2012) - WWII Medal of Honor recipient, Senator (1963-2012)
*Martin O. May (1922-1945) - WWII Medal of Honor recipient
*Patsy Mink (1927-2002) - U.S. Congresswoman (Hawaii) and author of Title IX
*Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) - WWI veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning WWII war correspondent
*Charles L. Veach (1944-1995) - USAF fighter pilot and NASA astronaut

Opened to the public in 1949, millions of visitors visit "The Punchbowl" each year. Many leave flags and leis to show their gratefulness to the fallen heroes. The view from the top of the memorial reveals the capital city of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach with its white sands stretching to meet the turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean.

Above the busy city there was a quiet calmness up on the mountain as the Airmen slowly made their way through the final resting place for so many American heroes. They each left the memorial with a deeper understanding of the sacrifices that so many made during the years of wars and struggles in the Pacific and abroad.

On a white marble wall read the inscription: "IN THESE GARDENS ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHOSE EARTHLY RESTING PLACE IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD". The manicured gardens, statues and thousands of grave markers on the "Hill of Sacrifice" stand as constant reminders of all the lives that have been lost over the years to ensure that Old Glory still flies high for future generations.