Memorial Day 2014 at the Makawao Veteran’s Cemetery

The islands of Hawaii have been a strategic battleground throughout history. Although there is evidence that the islands were inhabited as early as 800 AD, it wasn’t until the 1780s and 1790s when chiefs often fought for power. After a series of battles that ended in 1795 and forced cession of the island of Kauaʻi in 1810, all inhabited islands were subjugated under a single ruler who became known as King Kamehameha the Great and.he established the House of Kamehameha, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872.

In 1893 a group of businessmen overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani and replaced the monarchy with a Provisional Government. In 1894 the Provisional Government was replaced with the Republic of Hawai’i and the island nation was granted statehood in the United States in 1959.

I’ve oversimplified the history lesson as the focus of this article isn’t about Hawaiian history. For more, follow this link: Hawaii.

Memorial Day’s have come and gone over the years, and unfortunately the pageantry of patriotism in Hawaii has eluded my eye in the past. But here on Maui it’s been hard to ignore as I drive by a veteran’s cemetery almost every time I go down to town (Kahului) or return.

There are two general ways to enter the up-country hamlet of Makawao from the port town of Kahului, Most locals drive up Haleakala Highway to the Hailiimaile turnoff, driving east through the sugar cane fields to Baldwin Ave. which takes you to Makawao’s center.
We’ve lived in the upcountry for over two years, and we’ve traveled this route many times, passing the Veteran’s Cemetery just before entering the main street of Makawao. Just like anywhere else, one gets used to their environment, and at times the scenery is missed. But on Memorial Day the cemetery is adorned with small American flags, hundreds of them in all their splendor.

The Veteran’s Cemetery near Makawao is in a beautiful location, surrounded by the windward greenery and with views of the summit of Haleakala volcano. Surrounding growth blocks vistas of the ocean to the west and east which makes the scene more secluded. This is a quiet sanctuary that has been carved out of the lush tropical growth.

Last year we were unaware of the yearly ritual at the cemetery and we never anticipated the display of small flags at each grave. It was a dazzling display of patriotism and I swore that the following year a photo-document of this slice of American pride. Although, this year both my wife and I were traveling near the time of the display, I returned from my trip off-island and was able to get out early one morning. It was a perfect opportunity to break in a new camera (Canon 7D). I spent much of my time getting used to the controls, and then I just let my knowledge of photography take over. I remembered that it’s about composition and the light, and I got a few shots before the crowds descended on the site.

The trade winds were gentle but erratic that morning so I could get a number of good shots. The red, white and blue banners waving gently, proudly next to colorful tropical flowers on a backdrop of green grass. It’s striking when you come around the last bend in the road before entering the town. There’s no missing this annual display, and I had to stop and honor all those who served our country as its defenders.


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