The Punchbowl: Another cemetery of note

Martha’s post on cemeteries got me thinking–particularly since a few days before I wrote a post that included one of the cemeteries that made her list. While Arlington National Cemetery is a splashy, must-see cemetery on the east coast, across the Pacific Ocean in Honolulu is another national cemetery that offers a glimpse at major happenings in the world ‘s history.

The National Memorial Cemetery for the Pacific, more commonly known as The Punchbowl, is a cemetery developed for those who died in the Pacific campaigns during WW II. Later, people who died in Korea and Vietnam were buried here. These days those who served in the military who want to be buried in a military cemetery are buried at Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, Hawaii, also on Oahu because the Punchbowl is full to capacity. Along with the history lesson found by reading the various signage in the cemetery, another interesting feature its it’s punchbowl shape. The cemetery resides in the dormant volcano, Pouwaina which was aptly named. Pouwaina means consecrated hill or hill of sacrifice.

As a person who wasn’t the best at paying attention in social studies in high school, I found my trip here fascinating. I had a tour guide though who had a personal connection. My great uncle who retired from the army as a Lt. Colonel and stayed in Hawaii after wards since this was his last posting (and frankly, if you were retiring and happened to live on O’ahu, would you leave?) served in WW II, Korea and the Vietnam War. Even without my uncle, you’ll get a sense of the far reaches of the people who are buried here. Thousands of them were never identified.

Here’s a website I found Acres of Honor, that has in depth descriptions of the cemetery, plus photos and movies. There is a link to visiting information as well.

Veterans Day memorials and the Tomb of the Unknowns

Years ago, when I was visiting my great aunt who lived near Ft. Knox, Kentucky, she took me to the base’s officers’ club for dinner. She was a major. Here’s the thing. She became a major during WWII, and, years later, whenever she passed onto the base, she had the honor of being saluted at the gate by a young strapping male. She was in her mid 80s. Sweet. I was impressed.

With Veterans Day being today, I thought of her. This got me thinking about memorials as well. There’s no better memorial bounty than Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Here’s the line-up. If you click on each, you’ll get a mini history lesson: Civil War Memorial, Spanish American War Memorial, World War I Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

One of the most moving places at the cemetery, I think, is the Tomb of the Unknowns. Here there are four white marble sarcophagus, one for WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Inside each is a soldier (or soldiers) from that particular war who was unidentified. That soldier stands for all the other soldiers who died from that particular war and were never identified.

Stop by during the Changing of the Guard, an elaborate feat of solemn pageantry. As I was looking for more information about this tomb, since I haven’t been here since I was perhaps in the 8th grade, I came across the Society of the Honor Guards Web site. This organization is made up of soldiers who have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Solider (It’s more common name) since the 1920s. The page of FAQs provides info like the number of steps the guard walks with each pass of the tomb. Answer is 21. The number symbolizes the 21 Gun Salute.

With DNA testing, it seems never being identified is not as likely to happen. Even the tomb for the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War is empty. In 1998, DNA tests were done on the remains of this soldier and he was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. It’s even known what happened to him. He was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam. Since he was exhumed, the tomb has remained empty. That’s haunting and as poignant, I think.

John F. Kennedy’s Birthday and Locations with his Name

I was looking through my calendar to see what events I may have missed in May. Here’s one I caught just in time. Today is John F. Kennedy’s birthday. Born May 29, 1917 he became the 35th US president in 1961. This would be his 90th birthday if he were still alive.

In honor of the occassion, here’s a list of just some of the places you can go that are named after him. From an airport to a highway to an island and an eternal flame–you could travel for awhile to hit them all.

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport., New York.This is easier to get to or get from with the AirTran train that goes between the airport and Howard Beach and Jamacia Stations. For only $5 one-way, that’s a deal.
  • The Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. is considered a living memorial and showcases world renowned performances in dance, drama and music.
  • Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa, Florida (State Highway 60). Used to be called Layfette Street and Grand Central Avenue but had a name change after Kennedy’s visit to Tampa.
  • John F. Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida. Here you can see rockets launch. The next one is June 8.
  • USS John F. Kennedy (US Navy aircraft carrier that served until March of this year was the last conventionally powered carrier. It’s port-cabin designed by Jacquelin Kennedy will be reassembled at the National Museum of National Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
  • John F. Kennedy Peace Forest at the outskirts of Jerusalem, Israel.
  • Kennedy Island in the Solomon Islands is where Kennedy swam ashore in WWII after his torpedo boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer.
  • John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The flame is at his grave and never goes out.