Hawaii Vietnam airman killed in action honored at memorial

Published On: May 15 2013 01:27:15 PM HST   Updated On: May 15 2013 01:31:04 PM HST

A ceremony Wednesday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the State Capitol grounds marked the end of a more than 40-year-long effort to honor a Hawaii Navy airman killed in the Vietnam war.

The family of Albert Kalahana Kuewa credits one man with making it happen.

A journey of 47 years finally came to an end for Ben Ishida.

"Now I can rest.  Now it’s over.  The journey is over,” said Ishida.

Decades ago, Ishida brought home the body of his Waialua High School classmate and former Navy airman from Vietnam.

He promised him at that moment, he’d right a wrong.  He’d get Kuewa the honor he deserved -- his name etched into Vietnam memorials in Washington D.C. and in Hawaii.

"I told him at Punchbowl I will be on this til I die.  I’m getting old already, so I’m glad it's over,' said Ishida, who is now 70.

Kuewa was 23 years old when he was killed in action on Sept. 18, 1964 while launching operations on the USS Ranger.

"It was supposedly a secret mission. The Navy didn’t recognize that he was in a war zone," said Ishida.

PHOTOS: Kuewa Memorial

Click here to see photos from the memorial.

It took years of relentless determination and the help of some high up government officials to have his name finally accepted as a casualty of war and engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial.

"We were so young, in high school, when this happened.  So now it brings us back to really appreciate what he did all these years," said Francine Escuadro, Kuewa's sister.

The long awaited ceremony at the memorial recognized Kuewa's sacrifice.

"No other state or territory can lay claim more than the state of Hawaii to a clear understanding of what it is to make those sacrifices," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Kuewa's last surviving three siblings said they only have one regret.

"After all these years, I wish my parents and my other siblings was here to enjoy this moment," said Escuadro.

But, to finally be able to bring honor to a beloved friend and brother, is better late than never.


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