Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony lights to unite

Lanterns drift with the current at Ala Moana Regional Park, May 29, 2017. File photo by Kristen Wong

Lt. Emily Rosenzweig
3d Radio Battalion
Marine Corps Base Hawaii Chaplain

(Editor’s note: Jewish rabbi and Navy chaplain Lt. Emily Rosenzweig participated in the 20th annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony at Ala Moana Regional Park on Memorial Day.

Themed “Many Rivers, One Ocean — Interconnectedness,” the annual ceremony brought nearly 50,000 people together. Rosenzweig answered our questions about her takeaways, the meaning of the theme, her insights and feedback she received after being part of a video presentation aired at the event.)

I have two takeaways from this year’s Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony. The first is how the ceremony reflected the diversity of Oahu — religiously, ethnically, culturally, military-wise — all of us were represented and contributed to the overall program. The second take-away is how meaningful the act of sending the lantern out into the ocean was for many participants.

We don’t have many occasions for public expressions of grief, so it’s especially impactful to see people, young and old, moved to tears by saying goodbye to their loved ones once again.

Seeing thousands of lanterns floating on the water was a visual reminder of the truth that was expressed in the event’s theme: “Many Rivers, One Ocean.”

If I think about all the people I interact with each day — from the Marines in my battalion, to the cashiers at the commissary, to the customer service representative I only know over the phone — each of those individuals has or will experience the loss of someone they love. Generally, I don’t consider that fact during our interactions, but at the Lantern Floating Hawaii event it couldn’t be ignored.

If each of us is a river, we’re all flowing to the same end at the ocean, but also the same experience of loss and remembering.A number of the other attendees thanked me for sharing not only my thoughts on the theme of the event, but also for naming two of the service members I was remembering this Memorial Day.

In the video shown at the event I told the stories of Lance Cpl. Ty Hart who was killed in the helicopter crash off Haleiwa in January of 2016 and of Army Warrant Officer James Casedona who died in a separate helicopter training casualty at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

Besides my contribution, people also spoke of how this event was such a significant tradition for the military-civilian relationship on Oahu, as it both honors fallen service members and civilian loved ones of all island residents.

How vital it is that we find points of connection between our experiences even if they are religiously, culturally, or even politically so different. The fact that we all share the experience of loss — not necessarily in the details but in the larger picture — is a humbling reminder that we’re all more connected than we think.

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Category: News