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Late Waikele Army Chief Awarded Medal Of Honor

Sen. Michelle Kidani

Several years ago, the state Legislature authorized the award of a Hawaii Medal of Honor to memorialize the sacrifices of military service personnel from Hawaii, or personnel who were stationed at bases in Hawaii, who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Medal was awarded to the families of 19 servicemembers in solemn ceremonies at the State Capitol last month.

Among those recognized was U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don C. Viray of Waikele. CWO 2 Viray served in the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division at Wheeler Army Airfield. He and three other Schofield soldiers died in the crash of their Black Hawk helicopter on a nighttime flight in bad weather almost exactly a year ago in southern Afghanistan. CWO 2 Viray’s parents, Leodindo and Luz Viray, his sister Sherry Anne, and girlfriend Joy Pacba, were on hand at the Capitol when the Hawaii Medal of Honor was presented and to hear tributes from Gov. Abercrombie and legislative leaders.

It was a pleasure to meet and host the Viray family, even under these sad circumstances, and to learn about Don’s love for his job as an active-duty helicopter pilot. The annual Medal of Honor ceremony is a sobering reminder that the freedom we treasure is not free. The families of all of the service personnel honored this year know this to be true, and we must not forget those who paid the price for our freedom.

Congratulations to Kaleiopuu Elementary School for being designated a Read Aloud America school for fall 2013! I was invited to read to Kaleiopuu youngsters this year and thoroughly enjoyed their energetic and enthusiastic participation in this wonderful program. Read Aloud America involves families and the community by providing reading and activity handbooks, organizing book swap meets, and distributing hundreds of new books for students to take home and keep. Kaleiopuu’s vision for Read Aloud America is to provide our children and grandchildren the opportunity to be literate, life-long learners. A grant from the Legislature in the amount of $450,000 is allowing the program to continue at Kaleiopuu and schools elsewhere on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island involving more than 30,000 parents and children to improve important literacy concepts and skills.

Just three weeks remain in our legislative session, and critical decisions are being made on the state budget that will be in effect for two years beginning July 1. This week, bills that have been through the hearings process in both the Senate and the House, but may have been amended, will “crossover” back to where they originated to be put into final language and positioned for final approval. Adjournment is scheduled for May 2, but it is certainly not too late to let us know how you feel about the issues before our concluding votes.

Call me at 586-7100, or at senkidani@capitol.hawaii.gov, or in Room 228 at the Capitol.

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