US: Pearl Harbor veteran honored with inflight hula, song

"This was just so much aloha for our veteran. Just pure and simple, that's what it was,'' he said.

By: AP | Honolulu | Published: December 10, 2016 10:18 am
pearl harbor, japan pearl harbor, pearl harbor anniversary, pearl harbor veterans, world news Pearl Harbor survivor Donald Barnhart, center, shakes the hand of a United States Marine while leaving the 75th Anniversary National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration on Kilo Pier at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (AP Photo)

A group of Hawaii musicians and a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant provided special inflight entertainment to a Pearl Harbor survivor flying home from a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack. Ray Richmond, 97, and his family were the last passengers to board Thursday’s flight from Honolulu to San Diego, said flight attendant Lehua Beltrame-Tevaga, who is also the reigning Mrs. Hawaii America. She noticed that the family seemed a little upset, so during takeoff she and some crew members brainstormed about a way to cheer them up, she said.

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Also on the flight were the three members of well-known Hawaii group, Makaha Sons. So Beltrame-Tevaga asked them if they wouldn’t mind singing for Richmond. With an hour left in the flight, they went to the row where Richmond was sitting with his family. The lead flight attendant announced that Richmond was a Pearl Harbor veteran. Beltrame-Tevaga took a lei from around her neck and placed it on Richmond.

Mark Yim of the group played the guitar while Jerome Koko and Kimo Artis sang “Papalina Lahilahi.” Beltrame-Tevaga danced hula next to Richmond’s seat. Richmond thanked the performers and Beltrame-Tevaga said he told her “it was the best part of his whole trip.”

The performance felt like a natural thing to do “out of respect,” Beltrame-Tevaga said after returning to Honolulu from San Diego on Friday. “It’s a gift – something genuine, only Hawaii can offer.”

Passenger Brooks Onishi, a loan officer for Veterans United Home Loans who was seated behind the Makaha Sons, filmed the performance on his phone.

“This was just so much aloha for our veteran. Just pure and simple, that’s what it was,” he said.

Richmond was one of the survivors who returned to Pearl Harbor Wednesday for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the attack that plunged the United States into World War II and left more than 2,300 service people dead.

“It was just a good feeling, not only for Makaha Sons, but for everybody on the plane,” said Koko, the group’s leader. “People came up and started to kiss him and crying and thank him for all his service. So that was really nice.”

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