Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

On Memorial Day, our nation pauses to remember veterans who gave their lives to keep us safe. It is a time to honor the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans.

AARP Hawaii is partnering with the Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i’s Windward Service Unit and Maui County to continue our local tradition of making and placing lei on the graves of veterans at the Hawai‘i State Veterans Cemetery in Käne‘ohe and the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao.

We also encourage people to support the commemoration of the Vietnam War and to welcome veterans from all over the country and the world to Hawai‘i during Memorial Day weekend.

Let’s talk about the lei making first.

Back in 2013, Marissa Lum, a Girl Scout from Troop 1018 in Käne‘ohe, thought it would be a good project to make lei for the graves at the State Veterans Cemetery. Those graves didn’t get lei on Memorial Day like the graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Lum’s project blossomed and is now an annual Girl Scout event with a full day of flower donations and lei making at Windward Mall on Saturday, May 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by the placing of lei and American flags on the graves of veterans on Sunday, May 28.

AARP volunteers have been making yarn lei for several weeks and will be bringing several hundred lei to Windward Mall. AARP volunteers will also be stringing lei at the mall. We encourage everyone, not just AARP volunteers, to help by donating flowers or making 24-inch lei.

Maui County and Kaunoa Senior Services are hosting the annual “Blossoms for the Brave” event to collect flowers and make lei at the County Building on the Friday (May 26) before Memorial Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the 2,700 graves at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao. AARP volunteers are participating in that effort. Lei makers can park at the Maehara Baseball Stadium parking lot and take a shuttle to the County Building from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Flowers and pre-sewn lei of about 16 inches can be dropped off at the South High Street parking lot.

On O‘ahu, a full week of activities is being planned to welcome Vietnam veterans to Hawai‘i. Organizers note that Hawai‘i was the primary rest and recreation place in the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Additionally, Hickam Air Force Base is where the first prisoners of war landed when they returned home. Vietnam veterans from across the U.S. and allied countries are invited to participate in “Welcome Home Vietnam War 50 Years” events. Details are at the website, There will be a concert in Waikïkï on Saturday, May 27; a parade along Kaläkaua Avenue on May 28 and a Memorial Day service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on May 29.

So if you see a Vietnam veteran this Memorial Day weekend, welcome them home and thank them for their service — and take some time to reflect on those who didn’t come home.

Visit AARP Hawaii here

Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.


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