On the morning of Tuesday, December 14, our pace was a bit quicker. Abby had us booked at the Iolani Palace (the King’s Palace) for a tour.
We had to arrive at the Palace prior to our tour time in order to clear the COVID-19 protocols. The drive into Honolulu was uneventful. Parking around the Palace was a little tricky, but Art found a good spot just outside the entry gates.
Immediately, my eyes catch the building and the grounds. This is a special place.
We have no hiccups with the required health protocols at the check-in point. From there, we take the short walk to the entry area for the tour. Soon, we are given instructions based upon our time slot, and we are directed to chairs on a porch.
Within a few minutes, we are greeted and welcomed. All guests are provided slip coverings for their shoes, and we receive very specific instructions on how to use the hand held device that will provide the narration of the tour.
With that orientation, we enter the Palace. Clearly, the Palace is stunning in all directions. The historical information at each point on the tour is presented with clarity and detail. Guests learn not only about the building, but we learn about the leaders and their families.
No question, there is lots of history in terms of the development of the governing of the people of Hawaii, the construction of the palace with a focus on innovation, and Hawaii’s place in the world.
And then, there is America. Yes, America liked what it saw in Hawaii. And when America likes what it sees, sometimes there is a sad story. In this case, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
Since that turmoil, someone recognized the importance of this building. The Palace, its grounds have been nicely preserved. Additionally, the lower level of the building has a beautiful section of displays that continue to tell the Hawaiian story.
Gradually, we worked our way back to the car, and with an assist from technology, Art drove us to the Stewbum and Stonewall Brewing Company.
Located on the fringes of Honolulu’s Chinatown, this craft brewer has only been open for a couple of years. In fact, our waitress told us the brewery opened just as the pandemic hit. No new business owner wants to open in dire times, but Stewbum and Stonewall did.
Basically, the owners took a dilapidated store front, gutted the interior, installed a small brewing house, added a kitchen, created a tasty menu, and yes, they are more than competent in brewing beer. Their holiday beer named Low Elf Esteem was outstanding.
I do not visit craft breweries to become intoxicated. I go to see the uniqueness of their building, to learn the path of their story, to try one beer, and to support a local business.
It is a short walk back to the car. There we will regroup and find our way to the National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl.
If you make the trip to Hawaii, I believe you should go to Pearl Harbor. If you go to Pearl Harbor, I insist that you go to the National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific.
Each place is unique. Each place will make you think. But, the location of the Punchbowl is priceless.
To get to the cemetery, you will drive through a residential neighborhood. A very nice visitor’s center preps guests for the short drive into the grounds. And it is the dignity of the grounds, the burial sites, and the historical displays that will catch your eyes.
A long, long time ago, a conflicted earth full of chaos and collisions formed this crater. Hot lava and the Koolau Mountain Range were a part of this creation. The Punchbowl was the site for a variety of uses before Congress and Hawaii agreed on securing the land and appropriating funding for construction that started in 1948.
We parked and walked.
The views are appealing.
From the crest of the hill in one direction, I see the Honolulu skyline and the Pacific.
In another direction, I can peer down into green tree tops with a backdrop of homes and hills in the distance.
Personally, the Punchbowl is of interest to me for another reason. In the beautiful mosaic maps, the story of the war in the Pacific is carefully captured.
One of those maps shows the Coral Sea. On that map is the location of where the Navy destroyer the USS Simms went down after being attacked by Japanese planes. The Simms had been providing escort for the oiler, Neosho. My father’s oldest brother, Boyd, was on the Simms. Boyd died in that attack.
The focus at the Punchbowl is not reserved only for World War II. Both the Korean and Vietnam wars are a part of the displays and honoring the lives of the men and women lost in service to our country.
Perhaps the most stunning part of the grounds is the Courts of the Missing. The eight panels of names are overseen by a thirty foot statue of Lady Columbia, and tucked behind her is a beautiful chapel.
But, I also found the memorial walk to be moving. On either side of this path are ground ridden pieces of cut granite with bronze plaques attached to the top of the stone. These plaques contain a wide range of quotes and other information in tribute to the men and women that the Punchbowl honors.
If I’m lucky enough to return to Hawaii again, I hope to make another visit to the Punchbowl.
The word for punchbowl in the Hawaiian language is puowaina— which means “hill of sacrifice.”
Without question, this cemetery captures the loss of human life— the unwavering sacrifice that was in each of these lives.
Makes me wonder, why have we lost our ability to understand sacrifice for the good of all in our divided America?
Maybe, we need to peer more deeply into the natural beauty and goodness of the rainbow that appeared during our visit to the Punchbowl.
Perhaps, I have forgotten the symbolism of hope found in a rainbow.
My hunch is the souls remembered at the Punchbowl never gave up on hope.
If this is true, then the question for me becomes— why should I?
I can’t give up on hope.
Because giving up on hope means I’m unwilling to work to find a middle ground in the divide that separates us.