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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2015

Honolulu City and County, U.S. Military Rededicate Neal S. Blaisdell Center as War Memorial

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Johans Chavarro Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Service members and community members gathered at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu for a war memorial plaque rededication ceremony Nov. 10.

Originally dedicated on Sept. 12, 1964, as a living memorial to all of Hawaii's war veterans and war dead, acknowledgement and distinction of the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, formerly the Honolulu International Center, as a war memorial began to fade when the original memorial plaque went missing some time by 1970.

Approximately 51 years later from the original dedication in 1964, playing as they did in the original ceremony, the Royal Hawaiian Band began the rededication ceremony with the playing of the national anthem and "Hawaii Pono’i."

“We are here to rededicate a plaque originally placed on these grounds in 1964 to honor the men and women of Hawaii who offered their final measure of devotion to their comrades, and to their country, by laying down their lives in the service of our nation,” said Guy H. Kaulukukui, director of the Department of Enterprise Services of the city and county of Honolulu and master of ceremonies for the event.

During the ceremony, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, also delivered remarks to those in attendance, emphasizing the importance of remembering the nation’s veterans. 

“So as we remember and reflect, we must also act,” said Harris. “It’s up to us to ensure that every day we do right by our veterans. It’s up to us to ensure that we do more than remember our veterans on just one day a year. It’s up to us to live our lives in ways that honors those who gave so much of their lives for us. Let us be worthy of their service and sacrifice.” 

Representing Mayor of Honolulu Kirk Caldwell, Roy K. Amemiya Jr., managing director of the city and county of Honolulu, echoed Harris’ sentiments.

“Unveiling this plaque brings the spirit of Veterans Day to our everyday, keeping on our minds and in our hearts the unrepayable debt owed to those who serve and who have served our nation,” said Amemiya. 

“This facility is showing its age, and regardless of its fate, this site will remain in perpetuity a memorial to all the sons and daughters of Hawaii who served their country in a time of war, and a special tribute to those who gave their lives in order that freedom and justice might prevail throughout the world,” said Amemiya. 

Carol Fukanaga, member of the Honolulu City Council in Hawaii, also thanked the continued support and effort from those who saw the need to rededicate the Blaisdell Center as the war memorial it was intended to be.

“I think that these efforts remind us of the many sacrifices the veterans have made, not just on Veterans Day, but also as we enjoy the music, culture and arts, entertainment and freedoms that they fought to protect,” said Fukanaga. 

Thomas K. Kaulukukui Jr., veteran and chairman of the board and managing trustee Queen Lili'uokalani Trust, closed out the ceremony by thanking all parties involved in rededicating the Blaisdell Center as a war memorial, and noting the significance it makes in, not just honoring the past, but also the future.

“So today, on behalf of all veterans, and especially those who have served in times of war, and especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I sincerely thank you all, and thank those who have made this day possible,” said Kaulukukui. “This includes the private citizens who initiated these actions, the city council and the council members who moved on this, [and] the mayor and his staff who organized this.”

“This afternoon, we do more than to just recall our heroes of the past, we inspire our heroes of the future,” said Kaulukukui. 

Following a musical interlude and the playing of “God Bless America,” those in attendance moved to the Blaisdell Center lawn for the unveiling of the new memorial plaque. 

The memorial reads:

This site was known as the HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL CENTER from 1963-1976

Dedicated to all the sons and daughters of Hawaii who served their country in the time of war and in special tribute to those who gave their lives in order that freedom and just might prevail throughout the world 

City and Council of Honolulu September 12, 1964

The efforts to rededicate the Blaisdell Center originated from Tanya Harrison, who began researching the now occupied Blaisdell area as a family genealogy project. 

However, when her research brought to light old newspapers from 1964 that described the Blaisdell Center as a war memorial, Harrison became motivated to figure out how the title could have been forgotten and what she could do to get it back. It was then that Harrison, with the help of veterans who became interested in the project, met with Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Honolulu City Council members Ann Kobayashi and Carol Fukunaga on how to rededicate the Blaisdell Center as a war memorial.

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