West Hawaii dedicates Purple Heart Memorial

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KAILUA-KONA — Dale Wilson was just aware enough of the projectile ripping through his periphery to comprehend the wreckage hurtling toward him.

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KAILUA-KONA — Dale Wilson was just aware enough of the projectile ripping through his periphery to comprehend the wreckage hurtling toward him.

A fraction of a second later, the 11th Light Infantry Brigade’s grenadier was catapulted into the tree line, suffering a concussion, a broken collar bone and a separated shoulder as a result of the blast. A sole piece of shrapnel lodged itself in the middle finger of his left hand.

“I had just enough time to register it and all of the sudden — boom,” he recalled. “The whole world blew up.”

Wilson, now a retired U.S. Army Major and Commander of Hawaii’s Military Order of the Purple Heart, earned his Purple Heart that day in the jungle by way of a rocket propelled grenade launched by the North Vietnamese army.

He survived, though the incident laid him up in the hospital for three weeks and left him with a chronic shoulder separation requiring three operations since.

“You know,” Wilson said, “that’s life in the fast lane.”

Yet, in his own perception of events and by comparison to so many other recipients of the prestigious military honor, Wilson ended up one of the lucky ones.

He said civilian knowledge and comprehension of that fact, as well as the recognition not only of his sacrifice but the sacrifices of all servicemen and women wounded in the line of duty, are precisely the reasons why the Purple Heart Memorial was such a crucial addition to the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.

“I think it has to be here to remind people of the sacrifices that have been made,” Wilson said at the dedication and blessing of the memorial Tuesday morning. “As it says, ‘All gave some, some gave all.’ Whether it was a little bit like I gave or the ones who are buried here, we all paid the price for it.”

Dozens of military members and their families gathered at the cemetery for the unveiling of the memorial, which also honors in writing the Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Camero Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122 Auxiliary that raised nearly $20,000 over the last year to make the monument possible.

“I’m so very proud of them,” Norma Camero said of the auxiliary.

Her son, Christopher, after whom Kona’s VFW post is named, died in 2011 of wounds suffered in the line of duty while serving in Afghanistan.

“For me, it’s just like (his death) really happened only yesterday. But I need to move on,” Camero continued. “I know my son, if he’s watching, is very happy with what these people are doing.”

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Wilson said the Purple Heart Memorial is the fourth such tangible tribute in the state. The first came to Oahu in the early 2000s, the second to Maui and the third to Veterans Cemetery No. 2 in Hilo.

“People need to know of the sacrifices made on their behalf,” he said. “This is the best way to do it, with something graphic that carries that message.”

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