KAILUA-KONA — This year marks a special anniversary for Veterans Day.
The modern celebration of America’s military heroes began as Armistice Day a century ago. It was created to mark the cease fire and official end of World War I, which occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918.
When the clock strikes 11 a.m. Sunday, church and temple bells across not just Hawaii Island but the entire state will toll 21 times in 5-second intervals to commemorate the Veterans Day and Armistice Centennial commemoration event, as well as kick off the annual ceremony at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.
The American Legion Kona Post 20 will captain the service, with Commander Jim Hussey serving as master of ceremonies.
“Many, of course, died serving the country. In my case, serving 34 years, I knew a lot of them,” said Hussey, who completed four combat tours in the Vietnam War and retired an Army command sergeant major.
Hussey added that beyond the centennial and all the soldiers past and present, the American Legion will also appropriate Sunday as a way to honor the late Dr. Earl Bakken.
Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the battery-operated pacemaker, died on Hawaii Island on Oct. 21 at the age of 94. He was a World War II veteran who served as a radar instructor in the Army Signal Corps before becoming a prolific donor to veterans causes, including to the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.
Lt. Col. Loreto V. Borce Jr., commander at U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa Training Area, will serve as the day’s keynote speaker. A potluck served by the American Legion Auxiliary and other volunteers will follow the ceremony, which begins with the tolling of the bells at 11 a.m.
While honored to serve in the role of master of ceremonies during the celebration, Hussey said appreciation for the sacrifice of veterans is something he’d like to see more of every day and not just for a couple of hours on Nov. 11 each year.
“I think the nation should pause to recognize all veterans, but not just on Veterans Day,” Hussey said. “My feeling is they should be honored every day of the year. It doesn’t hurt whenever you see a veteran with a sticker or wearing a cap to thank them for their service. That means a lot to a lot of veterans.”
Also taking part in the Veterans Day and Armistice Centennial commemoration event this year will be the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122, Kona Marine Corps League, Hawaii Navy League, Big Island Retired Military Association, Kona Civil Air Patrol, Kealakehe High School JROTC, Konawaena High School JROTC, Kona Boy Scouts Troop 79, Hawaii Girl Scouts, Kona Elks Lodge #2616 and Kiwanis Club.