I spent four hours today with 25 wounded warriors and their families. A team of talented instructors and I introduced them to the game of golf. They suffer from a variety of physical and mental aches and pains; our intention was to introduce another form of therapy and provide them with an escape for a few hours.

It’s important and, usually, very satisfying work. But all day today, the sick feeling in my stomach grew and grew. I had heard the news: The governor and mayor announced that they want the Natatorium War Memorial demolished.

Although I too, am a veteran of 30 years service, with deployments to Southwest Asia and the Middle East, I could hardly bear to face these brave, wounded men and women as a citizen of a city and state that had just decided to tear down a war memorial.

Yeah, sure, the Natatorium commemorates World War I, and that was a long time ago. But these wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan signed up for duty with the same selfless patriotism that characterized those World War I volunteers of 1917. Will we abandon their war memorials a century from now?

The soldiers and sailors honored by that Natatorium volunteered to go abroad, to fight and, in too many cases, to die for the ideal of freedom. They went “over there” and won the Great War, the War to End All Wars, so-named because it was so horrific that everyone thought the world would never experience another conflict like it. When the call went out for volunteers, Hawaii stepped up and offered 10,000 registrants, 8,000 more than the 2,000 requested. Of those, at least 101 never returned.

Almost 72 years ago, after an attack right here, another generation volunteered to go abroad and fight to preserve freedom and fight tyranny. They went, served, fought and died, and prevailed. Then, 63 years ago it was Korea and 48 years ago it was Vietnam. Will we demolish their memorials too, because we think it will cost too much to preserve them – cost too much to preserve the memory of the fallen?

What kind of people are we that we can do something like this? I have a granddaughter who is 1 month old. When she grows up and learns her history, what is she going of think of me and my generation, people who can so offhandedly dismiss the heroism and service of men and women who died to protect the islands we live on?

I’ll probably be long gone before she’s old enough. I hope she finds honor in what we do; I hope she need not be ashamed. For today, I am ashamed and dishonored.

About the author: Mo Radke is a 30-year U.S. Navy veteran with extensive service in the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East. He is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Waikīkī and also served as a volunteer for Historic Hawaii Foundation, Bishop Museum and in a variety of other community-service positions around Oahu, including the Wounded Warrior Project, Salute Military Golf Association, Friends of the Natatorium and Friends of Haiku Stairs. Currently, he serves on the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board and is a PGA golf professional at Golf Academy Hawaii and will complete his Masters Degree in Business Administration from HPU in August 2013.


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