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NEWS | May 28, 2019

The Why

By Justice Vannatta, PHNSY & IMF Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Each May our nation celebrates Military Appreciation Month. It is a designated time for us to recognize and honor our brave men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they make defending our freedom at home and abroad. During National Military Appreciation Month we observe many holidays, including: Loyalty Day (May 1), a day set aside to reaffirm our loyalty to the United States; Victory in Europe Day (May 8), commemorating the end of World War II; Children of Fallen Patriots Day (May 13), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (the Friday before Mother’s Day), a time to thank military spouses for being the backbone of the families who support our troops; Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May), a time set aside to pay tribute to our military personnel who currently serve in our nation’s Armed Forces; and Memorial Day (last Monday in May), a day of remembrance for those who have valiantly given their lives in service of our country.

I have a strong Mental Model whenever I encounter military personnel. Their uniform alone immediately conjures up images of honor and nobility. It speaks volumes of respect and fortitude. I often think of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those honorable men and woman who have given their lives for us. In my heart I feel like I could never thank someone enough for protecting me and keeping me and my ‘Ohana safe. They are the reason why we all sleep well at night.

All around the world there are US military personnel guarding not only a wall or a post, but all of our freedoms and liberties that are so precious to us all. They defend our ideals of democracy and protect the American constitution and all of its greatness. Our rights and privileges as Americans are preserved each time a brave man or woman enlists. Their uniform is like a brazen shield that protects people they may never meet. They fight for Americans they don’t know. They put their lives on the line every single day for the love of our great country.

When I see a service member I often think of their family and the endless sacrifice it takes to make their ‘Ohana successful. When their loved ones return home carrying the wounds of war, either physically, mentally or emotionally, their families are there to embrace them. In the case of severe injury, many must give up their quality of life as they have known it to care for their military loved one. Service members get deployed three or four times in a decade while their spouse remains at home handling moves, home purchases, careers, bills and school changes.

I also think a lot about the military keiki. How they have to change schools on an average of six to eight times over the course of their parents’ military career. They deal with long-term separations from parents - who aren’t just headed out for a business trip - but for a year in a combat zone. I also think of extended family members like their grandparents who care for the children during deployments, the sisters and brothers who call and send cards and care packages, a host of uncles, aunts and cousins offering their unwavering support. Despite all the challenges, military families persevere and serve as an inspiration to us all. Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Robert L. Gordon III, said it best: “A strong nation is made up of strong families; among the most resilient are our military families.”

Contrast our comfort and coziness of Hawaii to the dry, dusty, dirty conditions of the Middle East. Think about how we enjoy the blue ocean while they are scanning the smoldering horizon for terrorists, improvised explosive devices and other threats to our country. While we laugh and mingle with loved ones during the holidays, they’re putting aside their own personal needs to help solidify our country’s position in the world. They have seen their best friends die in battle and in times of emergencies; holidays all together get forgotten. They have sacrificed everything for us.

When I see a service member in uniform I often think to myself what am I doing for our country? It immediately puts me in check. I am so grateful for my role here at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility and how my personal contribution affects our mission. Every day I have a debt to be paid to a service member who fights for me. Every day I have the opportunity to give my best to our Command for the brave souls who gave their lives for me. My mission awareness coupled with Command’s goals, helps propel us to a Culture of Excellence.

As former President John F. Kennedy once famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Sage advice. The least I can do is simply say thank you. Thank you to all of the brave men, woman and keiki who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. To you, I am forever indebted, Mahalo nui.


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