Category Archives: Holidays

Celebrating Kamehameha the Great

“He wishes to increase the happiness and not the wants of his people.”

~Captain Otto Von Kotzebue (1787-1846) Russian Navigator

Although there is some debate as to the precise year of his birth, Hawaiian legends claimed that a great king would one day unite the islands, and that the sign of his birth would be a comet. Halley’s comet was visible from Hawai`i in 1758.

The name Kamehameha means “the one set apart.” For 13 years, from 1782 to 1795, he waged numerous battles to conquer the islands, ultimately uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, becoming the first king, and establishing a dynasty that endured for over a century.

As a leader in restoring the islands, he urged his people to work and to grow food. They said of him,

“He is a farmer, a fisherman, a maker of cloth, a provider for the needy, and a father to the fatherless.”

As king, Kamehameha took several steps to ensure that the islands remained a united realm even after his death. He unified the legal system and traded shrewdly with the foreigners that followed Captain Cook. He did not allow non-Hawaiians to own land and this edict ensured the islands’ independence during a time when other Pacific island nations were succumbed to colonization. When Kamehameha died in 1819 his body was hidden by his trusted friend Hoapili, and his wife Keopuolani. It is said that only the stars know Kamehameha’s final resting place.

Each year on June 11th a state holiday honors Hawaii’s first monarch.  In addition to the traditional draping of lei on his statues, floral parades take place throughout the islands. With hundreds of riders on horseback, the parades showcase pa‘u equestrian units, marching bands, private mounted units, hula halau, floats, and more.




Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, commemorates men and women who died while in military service. Originally to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War, the name Memorial Day wasn’t used for the annual May 30th holiday until 1882. In 1968, to create a convenient three-day weekend, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill , moving the celebration to the last Monday of May. Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, has repeatedly introduced measures to return Memorial Day to its traditional date.

More than 2,335 veterans and survivors are buried in Maui Nui veteran’s cemeteries on Lanai, Maui, and Molokai.




Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service. The day was created to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard — following the consolidation of the military services in the Department of Defense. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of  Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.


Hawaii is home to 118,000 civilian veterans (those who have served, but are not now on active duty).



More than 2,100 veterans returning to Hawaii from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan received post-conflict care in at five Vet Centers, including one in Wailuku, Maui.

 General Information – Hawaii

Number of veterans: 117,254

VA expenditures in Hawaii: $384 million  

Compensation and pensions: $217 million

Readjustment benefits: $20 million

Medical and construction programs: $160 million

Insurance and indemnities: $10 million

 Number of veterans receiving disability compensation or pension payments in Hawaii: 17,435

Number of Hawaii veterans using GI Bill education benefits: 2,521

Number of home loans in Hawaii backed by VA guarantees: 2,242

Value of Hawaii home loans guaranteed by VA: $964 million

Number of VA life policies held by Hawaii residents: 9,454

Value of VA life insurance insurance policies held by Hawaii residents: $132 million

Number of Hawaii participants in vocational rehabilitation: 586