Forty-two names mark the Vietnam War Monument at the Maui Veterans Cemetery. These names commemorate the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. However, when Robert Moniz reads those names, he sees only the names of friends and classmates from Maui High and St Joseph School. For him, the monument is for them.
On the 25th of May, Robert Moniz, and other veterans gathered around to watch the unveiling of the monument. It’s the cemetery’s fourth monument dedicated to Maui County veterans. The monument to the Korean war arrived in 2007, and the monuments to the first and second world war were erected in 2010 and 2017 respectively.
The new monument is four-sided, representing the branches of the military, and both prisoners of war and those lost or missing in action. One side displays battlefield photos while another shows a map of Vietnam and commemorates the sacrifices of those killed in action with their names forever engraved.
According to Mitch Skaggerberg, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of Maui County, the monument was a culmination of the dreams of local veterans who had, at one point in the process, given up on the idea that they would ever see a monument due to low interest and the construction of other monuments. But it happened thanks to the hard work and perseverance of a committee of veterans who saw the project through to completion.
According to Hoehn, the total price tag on the monument would run up as high as $20,000 if it hadn’t been for all the people who volunteered their time and effort for free. Oregon Tile & Marble offered free granite, while Pacific Source offered free shipping. New Level Marble & Granite provided free installation, and the concrete base was donated by Walker Industries. This reduced the costs to a meager $4,500, which was received as a Maui County grant. Lastly, the engraving was done by Valley Isle Monument, and the photographic etchings were done by Pacific Sign and Design.
For Moniz though, this is a special moment. The list of soldiers transcends mere names engraved in stone from a war far removed, which is the case for most of the people who visit these monuments. He was there and these people were his friends. He remembers Walter Browne and Michael Pacheco as classmates, and James Soriano, who he met in kindergarten at St Joseph School.
Moniz went to Vietnam in 1966 shortly after his high school graduation. He remembers being young and cocky but completely uninitiated in what war truly meant. The memories remain, even as he wishes he could forget many of them, but he would never want to forget the names. He admits that the monument is about them, not him. But Skaggerberg disagrees. For him, the monuments are about all Maui county veterans, both active and inactive.
Elena Walker, who serves as the events coordinator for the Maui County Veterans Council, pointed out that the ceremony was the 150th anniversary of the Memorial Day holiday. The ceremony features speeches, music, and recognition for the Maui County veterans who passed away in the past year.
This year’s keynote speaker was a decorated 30-year Navy veteran named Jim Hickerson, who had served time as a prisoner of war in the famous Hanoi Hilton from December 22nd, 1967 to March 14, 1973.
He survived only to come home and find that his wife had left him for someone else. Soon after, he met Carole Hanson, whose husband had been shot down over Laos and had been searching for information regarding her husband. Together, along with an entire community of people in need of answers regarding the fates of their loved ones, they formed the National League of Families for POW/MIA’s.