Holding Onto Hallowed Ground in Hawaii

Russ Vaughn
An old paratrooper, with whom I once served, sent me a heads up on a situation from which I am geographically distanced, but as a one-time combat infantryman in the far-western Pacific, find close to my heart. On the Hawaiian island of Oahu is one of the most beautiful resting places of American war dead to be found anywhere in the world. I know this because I have been there and gazed out over the green expanse of the Punchbowl and felt the same sense of awed reverence as when I have visited my Vietnam Wall, the World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial in Washington. The Punchbowl is the Arlington Cemetery of the Pacific and like all those other sacred sites the Punchbowl is hallowed ground, infused with the sacrifice of the tens of thousands buried there who gave their all in service to this nation. That lush green resting place in paradise is a fitting tribute to that long blue, green, and khaki line of sailors, soldiers, and marines who died fighting on, over and even under those coral seas and on those endless deadly islands of the Pacific.

The conventional wisdom has been for years that the Punchbowl, due to its terrain limitations, is at full capacity and incapable of accepting new burials. I heard that decades ago, when I was there, and believed it until I received an email from someone well-attuned to the POW/MIA scene, Bill Bell, a man whom I served with in the 101st at Fort Campbell back in the early sixties. Bill went on, after a stint in Special Forces, to become the lead military investigator in the Vietnam POW/MIA issue and author of a book describing those events. While long ago retired from active duty, he remains energetic in that honorable pursuit of what is right, just, and dutiful in bringing home our honored dead from foreign battlefields.

But this is not about Bill; it's about the Punchbowl. While it has long been thought to be filled to capacity, a strange thing is happening due to the residual effects of the program that Bill helped initiate. Formerly unidentified remains interred in the Punchbowl now are being identified and removed for reburial in their mainland home communities. That presents a unique opportunity for the reburial of former sons of Hawaii who served in units such as the fabled 442d Regimental Combat Team, a unit primarily comprised of Nisei, loyal Japanese Americans, many from Hawaii, who served with exemplary distinction in the European Theater in WWII. I can't think of anything more justifiable than that any sons of Hawaii, who have fallen in service to their island and their mainland nation, whether in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or the Middle Eastern wars, should find their final resting place in that sacred green Punchbowl.

But surprise, surprise; according to this article, the federal bureaucracy has been hiding the information that disinterments due to remains identification have created available burial sites for those, who more than any other, are entitled to be buried there. You would think this is an issue to be taken up by the Hawaii media and their leftist Democrat government, but since they tend to march in lockstep with the all too often anti-military Obama administration, lots of luck there. It makes me wonder, in light of the rumors that he intends to retire to Hawaii, is our narcissistic CinC planning ahead a few decades, concerned about saving a large, presidential burial plot in the Punchbowl, complete with the space necessary for an outsized monument to mark his own highly regarded remains? That may sound a bit out there to some of you but when you consider this president's self-centeredness; it isn't out there that far. Presidents do tend to think in grand terms; for a narcissist president make that grandiose. So, if his goal is retirement in Hawaii then burial in the Arlington of the Pacific could be an attractive finale; thus the space saving.

From this old sergeant's point of view, the man who tried to fundamentally change the nation those Punchbowl warriors fought to preserve is not fit to rest among them. I say bury him in Southside Chicago where removing the spray-painted gangsta graffiti from his tomb and picking up the litter will be required daily.That seems altogether more fitting, since that was Chicago that foisted him on a well-intentioned but naively unsuspecting nation. Chicago made him... let Chicago keep him... forever.

An old paratrooper, with whom I once served, sent me a heads up on a situation from which I am geographically distanced, but as a one-time combat infantryman in the far-western Pacific, find close to my heart. On the Hawaiian island of Oahu is one of the most beautiful resting places of American war dead to be found anywhere in the world. I know this because I have been there and gazed out over the green expanse of the Punchbowl and felt the same sense of awed reverence as when I have visited my Vietnam Wall, the World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial in Washington. The Punchbowl is the Arlington Cemetery of the Pacific and like all those other sacred sites the Punchbowl is hallowed ground, infused with the sacrifice of the tens of thousands buried there who gave their all in service to this nation. That lush green resting place in paradise is a fitting tribute to that long blue, green, and khaki line of sailors, soldiers, and marines who died fighting on, over and even under those coral seas and on those endless deadly islands of the Pacific.

The conventional wisdom has been for years that the Punchbowl, due to its terrain limitations, is at full capacity and incapable of accepting new burials. I heard that decades ago, when I was there, and believed it until I received an email from someone well-attuned to the POW/MIA scene, Bill Bell, a man whom I served with in the 101st at Fort Campbell back in the early sixties. Bill went on, after a stint in Special Forces, to become the lead military investigator in the Vietnam POW/MIA issue and author of a book describing those events. While long ago retired from active duty, he remains energetic in that honorable pursuit of what is right, just, and dutiful in bringing home our honored dead from foreign battlefields.

But this is not about Bill; it's about the Punchbowl. While it has long been thought to be filled to capacity, a strange thing is happening due to the residual effects of the program that Bill helped initiate. Formerly unidentified remains interred in the Punchbowl now are being identified and removed for reburial in their mainland home communities. That presents a unique opportunity for the reburial of former sons of Hawaii who served in units such as the fabled 442d Regimental Combat Team, a unit primarily comprised of Nisei, loyal Japanese Americans, many from Hawaii, who served with exemplary distinction in the European Theater in WWII. I can't think of anything more justifiable than that any sons of Hawaii, who have fallen in service to their island and their mainland nation, whether in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or the Middle Eastern wars, should find their final resting place in that sacred green Punchbowl.

But surprise, surprise; according to this article, the federal bureaucracy has been hiding the information that disinterments due to remains identification have created available burial sites for those, who more than any other, are entitled to be buried there. You would think this is an issue to be taken up by the Hawaii media and their leftist Democrat government, but since they tend to march in lockstep with the all too often anti-military Obama administration, lots of luck there. It makes me wonder, in light of the rumors that he intends to retire to Hawaii, is our narcissistic CinC planning ahead a few decades, concerned about saving a large, presidential burial plot in the Punchbowl, complete with the space necessary for an outsized monument to mark his own highly regarded remains? That may sound a bit out there to some of you but when you consider this president's self-centeredness; it isn't out there that far. Presidents do tend to think in grand terms; for a narcissist president make that grandiose. So, if his goal is retirement in Hawaii then burial in the Arlington of the Pacific could be an attractive finale; thus the space saving.

From this old sergeant's point of view, the man who tried to fundamentally change the nation those Punchbowl warriors fought to preserve is not fit to rest among them. I say bury him in Southside Chicago where removing the spray-painted gangsta graffiti from his tomb and picking up the litter will be required daily.That seems altogether more fitting, since that was Chicago that foisted him on a well-intentioned but naively unsuspecting nation. Chicago made him... let Chicago keep him... forever.