PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Service members, families and guests gathered to celebrate the Pearl Harbor Colors Honor and Heritage Ceremony Jan. 15 at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial.
The ceremony, themed 'A Tribute to Families,' celebrated military forces, service members and their families, and recognized military history, heritage and honor.
"We are gathered today, at this first Pearl Harbor Colors ceremony, to pay tribute to our veterans, members of the armed forces and, especially today, to their families who dedicate their lives and sacrifice so much in defense of freedom, said guest speaker Capt. Charles Johnson, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31.
"Our veterans are the pride of our nation. They are sent to lands far away from their homes in the name of freedom and justice. But veterans are not the only ones who bear the brunt of that sacrifice. It is the families who support their service members that also bear the burden, and it is in their honor that we dedicate this ceremony."
During the ceremony, families of currently deployed guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), homeported in Hawaii, were recognized as special guests, represented by the commands' ombudsmen.
"We honor our families for the tremendous contributions you make on a daily basis in support of your military member," said Johnson, addressing military families. "You are a testament to the character of our nation, and we, as service members, recognize you today in the first Pearl Harbor Colors ceremony."
Stephanie Hughes-White, whose spouse is currently deployed with Michael Murphy, reflected on the event and its importance for service members, families and civilians.
"It was just nice to be recognized as military spouses," said Hughes-White. "And I think it is great for the civilians to be a part of this, to see what we go through and know what the colors ceremony is, not necessarily knowing what it means, but that it is a time of respect. That's important for them to understand -- it's not just when the day starts and the day ends."
The ceremony featured musical performances provided by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band ceremonial band. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Honors and Ceremonial Guard presented the colors during the ceremony.
The event coordinator, Lt. j.g. Blake Vaughn, special projects officer of Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs, described the purpose and need for such ceremonies.
"We've been planning this event for a long time," he said. "This is the first one, and it's only going to get bigger from here. We saw early on that there was a gap between the almost two million people who come through the visitor center every year, and we thought the best way to build relationships was to create a new ceremony here at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center that will take place on a monthly basis and going to create that interaction and develop that relationship with the kama'aina of the islands of Hawaii."
The ceremony is slated to become a monthly event with varying themes. The future events aim to present an opportunity for local residents and international visitors to witness U.S. military colors ceremony and meet veterans, service members and their families.
Pearl Harbor Colors is also intended to build on the relationships the Navy maintains with the National Park Service and historical and community partners.
"And finally, there's nothing more beautiful than Pearl Harbor in the morning," added Vaughn. "So you've got sunrise, you've got beautiful colors all over the harbor and throughout Hawaii. So we tie all of those three things together in this ceremony."