Thirty-six U.S. Navy sailors from the USS Daniel Inouye joined members of the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution Saturday for a day of community service at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.
The sailors, along with their commanding officer Capt. David Haile, meticulously cleaned headstones at the cemetery, even using toothbrushes to polish the engravings. In addition, each volunteer planted two native trees on the hill mauka of veterans final resting place.
Haile, who has captained the guided-missile destroyer since January said the USS Daniel Inouye has been making port around the state because “we are Hawaii’s ship.” The vessel arrived Friday morning, welcomed by a host of local paddlers who escorted the USS Daniel Inouye into Kailua Bay. Departure is slated today.
Haile said the ship’s crew wanted to perform community service while in port, and were excited to do cleanup at the cemetery.
“The senator represented the whole state,” he said, noting they will make port next week in Lahaina, Maui. “It is an honor to honor the senator’s legacy doing something like this.”
Veterans and civic organizations provided lunch for the hard working sailors who spent the morning in the hot Kona sun beautifying Kona’s “Arlington of the Pacific.”
The USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, which the U.S. Navy calls the “backbone” of its surface fleet and critical to the future Navy. The destroyers are highly capable, multi-mission ships, and can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management, to sea control and power projection – all in support of the United States military strategy.
The nearly 510-foot ship honors the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a decorated World War II veteran who served in congress from 1962 until his death in 2012. The vessel was commissioned Dec. 8, 2021, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, Inouye was a 17-year-old senior at Honolulu’s McKinley High School, and rushed to a Red Cross aid station to help civilians and Sailors wounded in the attack.
When rules changed to allow Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) to fight on behalf of the U.S. in World War II, Inouye served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated military units in U.S. history. For his combat heroism, which cost him his right arm, Inouye was awarded the Medal of Honor and posthumously a U.S. Navy vessel that bears his name.
The vessel, which is the second newest of the Navy’s fleet, also carries a plethora of memorabilia from Inouye’s life.
Inside the wardroom are photos of Inouye, as well as his service weapon, Medal of Honor and other mementos. Down in the messhall, where sailors gather to eat, is a timeline wall paying tribute to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team as well as other momentos including a piece of the the ships keel etched with the signature of Inouye’s late wife Irene Hinaro Inouye, who died in 2020, but took part in the vessel’s keel-laying ceremony. Menus and photos from Inouye’s favorite eateries are also posted.