Hawaii soldiers' fathers press for memorial
By William Cole | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: September 11, 2013
As two more of the nation's wars begin to fade from the forefront of American consciousness, two fathers who lost their sons in Iraq and Afghanistan hope it won't be the same for their sons' sacrifices.
A day before today's 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — which precipitated the "War on Terror" and fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq — Allen Hoe, whose son, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, was killed in Iraq, and David Brostrom, who lost his son, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, in Afghanistan, met with state officials to say they are seeking public ideas for a proposed war memorial.
Hoe and Brostrom are co-chairmen of a state task force planning a memorial for Hawaii's fallen soldiers from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 as well as the later wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraq War ran from 2003 to 2011, and Afghanistan fighting, which started in 2001, is continuing as the nation's longest-running war.
"I take it on as a huge responsibility, and my motivation is my son," Brostrom said of the memorial. "You know, he's looking down, and he's making sure that everybody who fought in all these wars is properly honored."
For the more recent Iraq War and Afghanistan, more than 327 service members with Hawaii ties have died.
Act 139, signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on June 21, directed the Office of Veterans Services to develop a plan to give tangible and visible recognition to those who died in the nation's most recent wars.
The memorial task force members announced the new public outreach at the site of the Korean and Vietnam War Memorial on the state Capitol grounds, which cost more than $1 million and was dedicated in 1994, officials said.
State Rep. K. Mark Takai, a task force member, said the announcement Tuesday was a way to kick off the new memorial drive.
"We've met a few times already," Takai said, "but I think today's message is we want to get the public involved."
A survey is available at www.SurveyMonkey.com/s/HawaiiMemorial asking what form the memorial should take, what information it should include and where it should be located, among other questions.
The survey asks whether one of four suggested sites "might be an appropriate location," including Fort DeRussy in Waikiki, the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, the Oahu Veterans Center in Foster Village and the State Capitol District.
Allen Hoe and Dave Brostrom are themselves warriors. Hoe served in the Vietnam War as a combat medic with a long-range reconnaissance team. Brostrom was a helicopter pilot and commanded an aviation battalion in Operation Desert Storm.
"Every day is a struggle, and being in this special place brings to mind some very personal moments," Hoe said during the announcement.
He and Nainoa were involved in the planning for the 1994 memorial.
"So for me it's sort of a personal kind of commitment to make sure that his generation is honored in the same way that my generation has been honored," Hoe said.
His 27-year-old son, a 1995 Kamehameha Schools graduate and a popular Army platoon leader, was felled by a sniper's bullet in Mosul, Iraq, in 2005.
Brostrom, 24, a 2002 Damien graduate, was killed in a 2008 firefight in eastern Afghanistan while trying to protect his soldiers.
David Brostrom dislikes the fact that many Americans seem to want to forget about Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think a greater part of America has forgotten certainly about Iraq, and Afghanistan is in the rearview mirror now, and so you have to do something like this (planned memorial) to keep the public informed," he said.
State Sen. Will Espero, another of the task force members, said some state funding, along with private contributions and possible federal sources of funding, likely will be sought for the yet-to-be-designed memorial.
All U.S. combat troops are supposed to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Hoe said "we believe that within that time frame we should be able to have something done (with the memorial) or substantially on its way to completion."
Hoe added that the plan will include a recognition of the names of the fallen.
"That will be an essential part of the memorial," he said.