The National Cemetery of the Pacific, the Punchbowl or Puowaina is nestled above Honolulu in an extinct volcanic tuff cone. It is a must see!
We wound our way through the curvy, poorly marked streets, by poorly marked I mean you have to be alert and have your game on. The signs are quite close to where you need to turn and we missed one. Trying to navigate turning around on the narrow, busy streets adds to the adventure.
The first glimpse of the National Cemetery of the Pacific is breathtaking. An American flag flows in the gentle breeze. In the distance stone stairs lined by the Court of the Missing, lead to the 30 foot white statue of Lady Columbia as she greets visitors. The Court of the Missing has 10 marble walls listing the names of over 29,000 U.S. service members whose remains were never recovered from battle. Lady Columbia represents all grieving mothers. There is an inscription from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War. Behind Lady Columbia are buildings with maps and descriptions of different battles.
A short drive up the hill to the left of the entrance are restrooms, a computerized system to look up buried service members and a walkway to a stunning lookout. The walkway is wheelchair accessible. Looking south I saw Diamond Head, the hotels along Waikiki beach, Honolulu’s business center and the airport. A few steps in the opposite direction were views of the National Cemetery of the Pacific. It is easy to see why the National Cemetery of the Pacific is nicknamed the Punchbowl. The grounds are immaculately groomed. Grass is kept short, leaves are removed, dead flowers are removed and there are strict rules as to what is allowed to be placed at each grave site.
Historically, Puowaina, the Hill of Sacrifice, was used for human sacrifices to the Hawaiian gods. During World War II, the military used the area for coastal defense. Shortly after WWII, Congress approved the location as a cemetery. Some of the first to be interred were those military members that lost their live during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The National Cemetery of the Pacific is the second largest military burial grounds.
The National Cemetery of the Pacific is a must see. There is no admission fee and it serves as a reminder the number of military personnel who made incredible sacrifices so we can continue to enjoy our freedom.