Even as he paid tribute to the thousands of lives that perished on the islands during World War II, Saipan Mayor Donald P. Flores also gave thanks to tourists who continue to flock to the CNMI to enjoy its crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and warm hospitality during the unveiling of the enhanced U.S. Armed Forces Memorial in Oleai on Friday.
“Through the vision, commitment, and hard work of the Office of the Mayor of Saipan, P&A Corp., and Mr. Tony Lim, our Island Beautification Project is now the centerpiece of Saipan’s Hafa Adai Spirit. We are sure residents and visitors will enjoy the transformation of the place. Change is never a bad thing, if done right, and we did it right because we envisioned it and followed through with action,” Flores said in his welcome remarks.
P&A Corp. donated funds to renovate the memorial, while Lim owns the building at the back of the memorial.
Flores said the idea behind the enhanced memorial sprang from a weekend project idea to show that the mayor’s office cares for residents and visitors alike.
“We needed to contribute our time to make our island clean and beautiful. [So we] turned this into a beautiful project like what we have here today. Remember the old flame tree and palms that once stood on this ground? The flame tree and coconut palms were old and rotted. Residents and visitors who visited this ground were at risk of getting hurt from falling branches and coconut.”
He said his office removed and eliminated that risk and residents of Saipan “now own this beautiful, colorful memorial.”
“The U.S. Armed Forces Memorial here reminds us of the thousands of lives who fought for a single reason—that is, to bring people together to live in peace. The flags that you see here represent that single reason. As people from different nations, we have come together and are very proud to have everyone here as our neighbors and visitors.”
He said the water wheel represents the islands’ tourism industry, which has been the lifeline of the CNMI for many years.
“We hear a lot about making our island nice and safe so that visitors will come back. Repeat visitors are as crucial to our success as a beautiful tourist destination as welcoming new visitors. The water wheel signifies our goal of making sure we see many, many more repeat visitors to our island, and that we pray they continue to pour in.”
P&A Corp. president Hong Hyun Kim said he signed off on the project to honor the thousands who sacrificed their lives in the Battle of Saipan during World War II.
“Saipan now is such a peaceful place. However, more than 69 years ago, on the 15th of June 1944, as many as 3,144 soldiers fell in battle on this very spot. And I’m certain that a lot more soldiers from the opposite side and innocent civilians must have been killed as well. We should not let our beautiful island suffer the ravages of war ever again and I sincerely hope for the CNMI to keep itself peaceful and sound permanently.”
Lim, for his part, said the U.S. Armed Forces Memorial has a special place in his heart because he himself is a Korean War veteran and a resident of Saipan for more than 40 years.
“I was already here when I built this building in 1986, and over the years I have maintained it; however, it was deteriorating long before I arrived. The bronze plaque was very difficult to read and visitors would sometimes ask me to explain the significance of this monument.”
Lim said the memorial is a poignant reminder of military bravery and unselfish service to the United States.
“The message conveyed is especially moving to those who lived through World War II. I am proud to have this memorial in front of my building. The memorial is a lasting expression of our continued gratitude to those who fought and those who gave their lives to the United States of America and for Saipan.”
Close to a hundred government officials and staff and community members attended the unveiling ceremony, led by Lt. Gov. Jude Hofschneider, Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), Department of Public World Secretary Martin Sablan, Veteran Affair Office executive director Vicente Camacho, Japan Consul Koji Hiro, 12th Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council councilman Diego Kaipat, and 2013 Liberation Day Queen Nicole Ichihara Sablan.