‘The values that unite us…’ Love and aloha to Hokule‘a voyagers

Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

(Editor’s note: This commentary is excerpted from Rear Adm. Fort’s remarks last Saturday welcoming the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hokule‘a to Pearl Harbor. Hokule‘a departs this afternoon at 5 p.m. after a week at Rainbow Bay Marina.)

I am a firm believer that the values that unite us are greater than the distractions that divide us.

We are truly inspired by the brave but humble navigators and voyagers of Hokule‘a and by the values you cherish and represent.

Ask any U.S. Navy Sailor what our Navy’s core values are, and she or he will tell you: Honor – Courage – Commitment.

These are shared values.

Honor, for example: Members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society sail and live with a code of honor, discipline and ethics — respect for the land, love of the oceans, caring for people, and sustainability of our shared environment.

Courage: Can you imagine what it takes to sail — by wind, currents, stars, the sound of the waves lapping the canoe, and intuition – across vast oceans – without modern instruments? The ancient Polynesians and other early mariners were bold, proud, strong, and resilient. They inspire all of us today.

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, speaks with Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and master navigator of Hokule‘a. Below, Hokule‘a renders honors as it passes by the USS Arizona Memorial. Photos by MC1 Jeffrey Troutman

Commitment: Navigators of Hokule‘a are committed to the pursuit of knowledge. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and, yes, Art. Navigation is both a science and an art. Your commitment to education and to the next generation is part of your DNA. We all must be committed to teaching those who come after us. And we must educate them on the lessons of history.

That knowledge at a deep and profound level helps unite us and keeps us from being divided.

Here at Pearl Harbor we are reminded each day of our shared history.

We see the reasons to defend our freedom and liberty to pursue our dreams. We remember the service and sacrifice of brave veterans in the Pacific War that started here on Oahu. And we remember the once young people who faced an existential crisis more than 75 years ago and who responded boldly — warriors and statesmen such as:

Adm. Gordon Paiea Chung-Hoon, commanding officer of USS Sigsbee in World War II, who gallantly fought the enemy and received the Medal of Honor. He was our Navy’s first Asian American / Native Hawaiian admiral. And, today his proud namesake, USS Chung-Hoon, is homeported here in Pearl Harbor.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, of the famed 442nd Infantry Regiment in World War II, and a man who continued to serve his nation, state and the free world when his dream of becoming a medical doctor was destroyed on a battlefield in Europe.

Myron “Pinky” Thompson –— Nainoa’s dad — who joined the Army, also fought for freedom, and was severely wounded at Normandy. “Pinky” Thompson devoted the rest of his life to helping others and, like his son, made a positive difference in people’s lives as a force for good and as an early leader of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. When “Pinky” Thompson passed, Sen. Inouye reminded us we lost a “noble leader.”

The brave leaders I just highlighted understood the value and importance of service: service to others, service to their country and service to a higher cause.

Speaking on behalf of our military team — including DoD civilians, veterans and family members here in Hawaii — we are supremely fortunate to live in Hawaii-nei (beloved Hawaii).

We do not take this opportunity for granted and we try to live with Aloha. We host an annual Makahiki at Joint Base, participate at Merrie Monarch in Hilo, and include Hawaiian blessings at all our important events, including Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

By the way, the name of our Region/ Base newspaper is “Ho‘okele” — Navigator.

We clean beaches, relocate albatrosses, protect other sea birds and turtles, and we do everything possible to protect marine mammals when we operate at sea. Thank you, voyagers, for joining us to help restore Loko Pa‘aiau Fishpond on Saturday.

Most of all, just like ancient warriors, we train to be ready at all times. We train to defend against enemies who wish to do us harm. And we build partnerships with those who wish to have cooperative peaceful relations.

That’s exactly what we’ll do during Pacific Partnership again this spring and during RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, this summer.

The values that unite us are greater than the distractions that divide us.

Thank you again to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, area Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools, and all our neighbors for making today’s celebration (and the weeklong visit) possible.

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Category: News