70TH ‘REUNION OF HONOR’ CEREMONY ON SAIPAN
After a weeklong of celebration to remember their courage and sacrifice, World War II veterans and families of late veterans were honored for their legacy of peace through a Mass, parade, and ceremony. The events were part of the 70th commemoration of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.
A “Reunion of Honor” Mass was held at the Kristo Rai Church at 9:30am in Garapan, followed by a parade from the Cabrera Center on Beach Road to the American Memorial Park in Garapan.
The parade was participated in by the baseball divisions of the CNMI, motorcycle groups, U.S Marines, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Army Corps, CNMI Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, Marianas Star Entertainment Inc., taekwondo students, veterans, government officials, and vehicles.
After the parade, a “Reunion of Honor” ceremony was held at the American Memorial Park to honor the visiting WWII veterans and to show the CNMI’s gratitude for their services.
Expeditionary Force Band from Okinawa performed the pre-ceremonial music, followed by the call to order for the ceremony by Frankie Eliptico of the Northern Marianas College.
The highlight of the ceremony was the keynote speakers and guest speakers as well as prayers offered by Bishop Yoshio Okamoto of the Tenrikyo Onomichi Church in Japan.
According to 70th Anniversary Battle of Saipan and Tinian chair Vicente Camacho, it was an honor for the people of the CNMI and the government to welcome the WWII veterans and to thank them for liberating Saipan 70 years ago.
“June 15, 2014, marks the 70th year since the war ended on Saipan. We are here to honor our World War II heroes, those who are still standing and those who have fallen. We also honor their families and all who lived through the atrocities of that war,” Camacho said in his remarks.
Camacho said that June 14 also marks the celebration of the CNMI’s liberation and honor those who made it possible.
“We celebrate 70 years of peace, unity, economy advancement, prosperity, and the continued security that we are all privileged to enjoy,” Camacho said.
Camacho noted that the celebration is one of “great diversity—diversity in race, color, religion, ethnicity and equality, but one people united and working together for the common wealth of all.”
Keynote speaker Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, commander, Joint Region Marianas, also noted the passing of the late mayor Donald Glenn P. Flores, asking everybody present for a moment of silence.
In his welcoming remarks, Gov. Eloy S. Inos said that everyone had come together to recall a time when soldiers from a nation “thousands of miles away from our shores” landed here in the hopes of ending a war and in turn, helped to liberate a grateful people.”
“This is a time to connect with our past by seeing history in the flesh in the form of our liberators. It is a time when our community gets together to celebrate their selfless acts which paved the way for us to live our lives the way we want to,” Inos said.
Inos said that in recalling June 15, there is a “sense of pride and honor we all feel” but to the elderly and veterans, “the memories they have of the war are some they wish they could not forget.”
Speakers also included Japanese Consul Hitoshi Kikuchi, P&A Corp. general manager Ho Joon Jo, Gary McClosky who represented for a World War II veteran named Joe Lane, Miwa Kuriyam representing her grandfather, Torazo Kuriyama, and Okamoto.
Other important speakers included WWII veterans Teruki Okaziki, Robert A. Burke, Raymond Russell Kelly, and Carl Mathews.
Inos, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, and Payne later laid a wreath at the site. They were joined by veterans and Japanese representatives.
The ceremony was capped by a 21-gun salute from the Department of Public Safety firing team and the playing of Taps.
“Today, we salute and honor our WWII veterans, veterans of other wars, their families, and our local leaders who helped to rebuild Saipan after the war. Let us thank them for making our lives better. Now it is our duty to give our children an even better opportunity than that which we received,” Camacho said.