U.S. Army soldiers on Tuesday trimmed trees and removed garbage at Pawai Bay on the northern end of Old Kona Airport Park.
Seventeen soldiers of the 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based out of Schofield Barracks on Oahu spent the day cleaning up a family burial area at Pawai Bay. The troops return today to complete work, said unit Capt. Jamesia Redwine.
Keaka Nicole Lui, a cultural monitor for the area and a direct lineal descendant, oversaw the work, expressing thanks to the troops who, despite the heat and sun, beautified her families’ plots. She said about 20 members of her family, the Kauas and Kaihaemakawalus, many of whom died young, are buried there.
“These are my great-great grandparents and great-great grand aunts,” she said, noting some of the burial plots lie outside a stone wall built surrounding the plots. “This is a wonderful thing that Capt. Redwine and her troops are helping. My heart goes out to them.”
Following the cleanup, Lui said a plaque, in Hawaiian and English, will be posted to let people know the area is wahikapu, or a sacred place. She hopes it will help deter camping and other uses of the area.
The two-day cleanup is part of the Army’s general guidance that troops give back to any community they are in, said Redwine. The unit, normally stationed at Schofield, flew to Hawaii Island for deployment training at Pohakuloa Training Area Oct. 3 and will remain on island through Nov. 20, she said.
“We wanted to reach out to the community here and help,” she explained. “We want the community also to know we respect their culture, and our soldiers are more than happy to do this.”