A Salute to the Veterans – Honor the Dead by Helping the Living
“Honor the Dead by Helping the Living” is the slogan by the Veterans of Foreign Wars headed by Commander George Kelly from Post 3830 in Pahoa.
Kelly and his group of Veterans and their spouses will be hosting a 5K (3.1 mile) run or walk on Sunday, June 18, to raise money for the many services they provide to our veterans.
A Salute to our Veterans title and idea came from a group effort in looking for the right name to call their 5K run/walk. The Vets looked at a variety of titles, including “The Hilo Bay 5K” before deciding on the Salute to the Veterans title.
“We wanted to do something special in connection with the VFW state convention being held in Hilo from June 16 to 18,” event organizer Marlene Hapai said. “From my canvassing the Puna district and attending a few of their breakfast meeting it was obvious this was a group of people willing to do anything and everything to help their fellow veterans.”
VFW post 3830 is located in Nanawale Estates in lower Puna will host veterans and members of the community for breakfasts twice a month and a dinner once a month for a nominal fee.
“Most of our funding comes out of our own pockets,” Kelly said.
Presently Post 3830 is located in a small 24’x80’ building that services everyone from Veterans to members of the community and on busy days many people need to sit outside.
“This run/walk will help raise money to expand our facility and to add a Class A kitchen, showers and an office,” race director Marlene Hapai said.
Kelly, who is presently undergoing chemotherapy, will start the race and will be pushed in his wheelchair by another veteran, Archie Hapai of Kurtistown.
“I’ve been diagnosed with B cell lymphoma,” Kelly said. “I got the cancer from serving in Vietnam from 1965 to ’66 when they were using Agent Orange.”
Kelly served our country in the Marine Corp for “4 years 3 months and 29 days” and was honorably discharged as an enlisted man, sergeant.
“We’d like to expand our facility in order to have more space so that we can bring doctors, dentists and other services for our Puna vets,” Kelly said.
According to Kelly many of our veterans still live in the woods and under tarps. The 2010 census revealed that there are 2,300 displaced veterans with 1,300 of them living in the Puna district.
“Displaced is a government word for saying that those Vets are not homeless, but in all likely hood they are living in sub standard housing and are having a difficult time making the transition to civilian life,” Kelly said.
The new facility will become the Pahoa Veterans Outreach Center and will expand to its original conceived idea of what the post was supposed to be.
“We were to have two buildings but the lack of funding prevented us from having a facility that could help the amount of vets that live out here,” Kelly said.
Kelly believes that those in Washington D.C. thinks that Hawaii is the island of Oahu as the Big Island is often overlooked when it comes to government dollars.
“We have over 4,000 vet patients and only three doctors to care for them,” Kelly said. “We kept complaining and made out voices heard in Washington and now they’ve allocated funding for an additional doctor.”
The Salute to Veterans 5K run/walk is an attempt by the post to raise some money to help those that served our country and are living on the Big Island.
Prizes will be given to participants who have the best decorated wheelchair, most patriotically dressed, to the youngest and oldest participants and for those that came from farthest away, according to Hapai.
Awards will also go to the fastest three in a variety of age and gender groupings.
“We will also recognize the largest team participating,” Hapai said.
The goal for event directors is to have at least 200 participants and the Veterans groups is also looking for sponsors in their quest to reach a goal of $250,000 by the summer of 2013.
“I recommended a two year fund raising campaign that would coincide with the 75th anniversary of the VFW in Hawaii to raise money to build the rest of their building and increase their services,” Hapai said.
For all their hard work and outstanding community service Post 3830 will be recognized in August at the national level as the “National Most outstanding Community service Post for 2010 to 2011,” according to Kelly.
“Our vets and their Ladies Auxiliary have put in over 12,000 hours of community service and is well deserving of this award,” Kelly said.
For the 5K run/walk Hapai is hoping that 200 plus people will participate in the fitness event in order to recognize the contribution these men and women have made to their country and their community.
“We are only at 25 percent of our goal and we are hoping that the community will come out and support our vets by participating in a health and fitness event,” Hapai said.
Race information as follows:
What? "A Salute to Our Veterans" Hilo Bay 5K Run/Walk
When? Saturday, June 18th, Begins at 7:00 a.m. Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
Registration: Early Bird Registration Extended to June 5th: $25
includes T-shirt; After June 5th, $35.
Registration Forms can be picked up at the post, emailed to you or downloaded from the website: vfwpost3830.com
Contact information: Marlene Hapai, Event Coordinator, 966-9894 or firstname.lastname@example.org