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Posted on Feb 20, 2017

Input sought from Native Hawaiian vets

Published February 20, 2017 – 12:05am

By KIRSTEN JOHNSON Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Native people have served in every war since the American Revolution — more so than every other segment of the population.

The problem is, most Americans are unaware.

The National Museum of the American Indian wants to change that by constructing the National Native American Veterans Memorial, a public memorial dedicated to Native Hawaiian, American Indian and Alaskan Native veterans. The museum is part of the Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution.

On Thursday, representatives from the museum will be in Hilo holding a public meeting aimed at getting input on memorial plans from Native Hawaiian veterans.

The meeting runs from 10 a.m. to noon in Student Activity Room 112 of the Hale‘olelo Building at the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Project leads hope to see a strong turnout of Native Hawaiians who’ve served, but all are invited to attend, said museum spokeswoman Eileen Maxwell.

The memorial is slated to be unveiled on Veterans Day in 2020. It will be located at the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C., but the exact location within the park hasn’t been determined.

“We want to reach as many Native Hawaiian veterans as we can,” Maxwell said. “Native Americans [as a whole] have served in higher numbers per capita than any other (segment of the population) and it’s just an extraordinary fact. They’ve served in great distinction as well. It’s an unusual situation and it deserves to be recognized.”

In 2005, there were about 25,000 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander military veterans, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Other reports say that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are over-represented in the Army by 249 percent.

The museum doesn’t have data as to how many Native Hawaiian veterans reside in the state — or on Hawaii Island specifically — but Maxwell said it hopes to get a better sense after the Hilo meeting.

The memorial was first authorized by Congress in 1994, but ultimately stalled due to nuances in the legislation which created fundraising challenges.

In 2013, Congress amended legislation to allow the museum to raise money for the project. It’s now working to raise $15 million which it says will fund the design process, installation and create an endowment for programming, cars and maintenance of the memorial.

A similar meeting is scheduled in Honolulu on Tuesday. Meetings are slated to wrap up later this year.

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