A group of Mid-Columbia youngsters is getting a chance to honor World War II veterans — and they get to go to Hawaii to do it.
Ellahmarie Lanza, 10, of Pasco, Whitney Brown, 14, of Benton City, Raven Pridemore, 11, of Kennewick, Wyatt Hall, 15, of Kennewick and Genesis Villasante, 12, of Richland, landed Friday in Honolulu.
They will stay until Dec. 8, taking part in several events related to the 74th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7.
“It means a lot to me to honor the veterans, and show that we appreciate them and all they did in World War II,” Hall said.
The five members of the Columbia River Young Marines are among 100 representatives of the national group who are in Hawaii. They were part of the unveiling of a plaque and wreath laying at the National Cemetery of the Pacific on Dec. 6, and will lead the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade.
“It’s a very big parade,” said Alores Villanueva, unit commander for the Columbia River Young Marines. “It goes right along Waikiki Beach.”
The Young Marines will carry banners representing the 12 primary ships that were attacked in the raid.
“They are not just watching on the side of the road as it goes by,” said Joe Lusignan, the Young Marines deputy director of West Coast operations, who started the Columbia River unit. “They are leading the parade.”
The Young Marines, comprised of youths from ages 8 to 18, regularly work on the U.S. Marine Corps’ youth drug demand reduction efforts. But they have made several trips, including several to honor the Navajo Code Talkers at Window Rock, Ariz., and to Space Camp in Alabama.
The Columbia River group has been to Pearl Harbor before, but not in the last several years. So the trip provided a great opportunity for the kids, said Alores Villanueva, unit commander for the Columbia River Young Marines.
“It’s the big one,” she said. “Our local veterans are great, but this is a coming together of all the organizations to honor the Pacific World War II veterans.”
The Young Marines helped raise money to pay for their airfare to Hawaii, as well as ground transportation. They are staying at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kane’ohe Bay.
“We stay in the barracks, so that cheapens the price for it,” Villanueva said.
The kids will also get to do some sightseeing at places like Diamond Head and the USS Arizona Memorial, and perform community service, Lusignan said. The event is a memorable time.
“The sacrifices that were made are those that paved the way for what we have today,” he said. “This is actually where history came alive.”
Pearl Harbor memorial service in Hawaii to move to new site
The National Park Service and the Navy plan to hold a joint memorial service today to mark the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
The joint service is a rehearsal for what is expected to be a much bigger memorial service next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack by Japan that killed more than 2,400 Americans and brought the U.S. into World War II, KTVI TV reported.
In previous years, commemorations took place at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. This year and next year, the ceremony will be at Kilo Pier. KTVI reported. More than 3,000 guests and the general public are expected to attend. Next year’s 75th anniversary will be a much larger event with almost 6,000 people.
The Kilo Pier offers not only more space, but also a better view, Daniel Martinez of the National Park Service told KTVI.
“When you look out from Kilo Pier across the way, less than a quarter-mile away, you’re looking at the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri, so it’s a wonderful venue,” Martinez said.
The theme of this year’s historic commemoration is “Pathway to Reconciliation: From Engagement to Peace,” focusing on the rebuilding and solidifying the friendship between the U.S. and Japan.