Pandemic can’t stop displays of appreciation on Veterans Day in Hilo

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald The Aloha Exchange Club, with the help of a HELCO crane, hoisted a giant U.S. flag over Kamehameha Avenue and members wave flags Wednesday in Hilo to commemorate Veterans Day.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Darlene Ancheta waves a flag after riding into the parking lot of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home for a drive-by salute for the residents in Hilo on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Photographs of some of the veterans who died because of COVID-19 are displayed for a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Residents and employees at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home watch the motorcycle drive-by salute in Hilo on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Glenn Okada waves American flags with the Aloha Exchange Club in honor of Veterans Day on Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.

In lieu of normal events, Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo honored veterans differently this year.

The 13th annual Hawaii Island Veterans Day Parade went virtual this year to alleviate potential community spread of COVID-19. To supplement activities, the veterans home hosted a ceremony and a motorcycle drive-by salute.

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The ceremony was conducted in the courtyard at the veterans home, where residents watched from inside or from the balcony. Meili Caputo, 15, opened the ceremony with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Brenda Iokepa-Moses, the USDA Rural Development state director, served as keynote speaker. She talked about her experience as a daughter of a veteran of two wars and honored the 27 veterans who died of COVID-19 at the state veterans home.

After Iokepa-Moses spoke, Stacyn Sakuma, recreation director of the veterans home, read the 27 names, each of which was followed by the toll of a bell. A bugler played taps to conclude the ceremony.

Afterward, a few residents came outside while others stayed in to watch the Aloha Hoahanau Motorcycle Club drive by as a salute to the veterans home.

The rumble of engines alerted residents and employees outside that the brigade was almost there. Dozens of motorcyclists turned into the parking lot of the veterans home with their bikes adorned with American flags. They waved and sent shakas over to the few people watching outside.

Chaplain John Hiduchick led the residents, employees and motorcyclists in prayer. Residents waved to the motorcyclists and took time to talk to friends before heading inside for the day.

“We wanted to come out for all of you and show you how important you are to all of us,” Hiduchick said as he and other motorcyclists saluted the veterans.

Members of the motorcycle club collected monetary donations to give to the veterans home. The money will be donated today.

Earlier Wednesday, the Aloha Exchange Club, with the help of the Hawaiian Electric Co., lifted a 38-by-20-foot flag over Kamehameha Avenue to honor veterans.

Members of the club also waved flags throughout the morning as motorists drove underneath the huge flag while honking their horns.

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“We celebrate Veterans Day in gratitude for those who have served so that we can enjoy our American freedom,” said club president Dale Tokuuke.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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