A Debt of Gratitude
Kaunakakai School students, along with dozens of residents, honored Molokai service members at last Friday’s Veterans Day program in Kaunakakai. Organized by the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans, the observation included a student performance, release of colored pigeons, and words from Councilwoman Stacy Helm Crivello, Rep. Lynn DeCoite and other speakers.
Molokai VA physician Dr. Carlann DeFontes said according to research she did, Molokai has historically had the highest number of men and women joining the military per capita.
“People sacrificed so much to fight for us,” she said, becoming emotional. “Our veterans come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, rich and poor, black and white and nearly every category in between, men and women…. I look into my patients eyes… and I see how well you’ve survived trauma. It’s affected your lives and you have a different view on life now, but you survived.”
For many veterans, though, the fight is far from over once they return home from combat. Veteran and chaplain Juan Alcon reminded the group of the somber statistic that 20 veterans per day commit suicide in the U.S.
“There are 400 veterans on this island…. we gotta find them,” he said. “There are veterans here on this island who are not here, who are in deep depression… it’s our responsibility to go find them, bring them out of their depression and give them a word of hope.”
In a gesture of appreciation and recognition, a group of Molokai residents also made lei to place on the graves of Molokai veterans this year.