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O‘ahu Senator Calls on PTA to Hoist Hawaiian Flag Outside Military Facility

By Tiffany DeMasters
June 17, 2022, 3:00 PM HST
* Updated June 17, 3:05 PM
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An O‘ahu senator expressed disappointment after a site visit earlier this month to Pōhakuloa Training Area revealed only the American flag flying at the entry to the grounds.

Sen. Kurt Fevella sent a letter on June 8 to Commander Kevin Cronin to address his concern. While the senator found the visit educational, he stated: “The absence of the Hawaiian flag struck a chord and caused me to remember all of the past offenses and disrespectful treatment felt by Native Hawaiians.”

While the Hawaiian flag is on display in the PTA command room, Fevella, who represents ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, and a portion of ‘Ewa Villages, specifically asked for a response from Cronin as to why the Hawaiian flag is not prominently displayed in front of this facility, like many other buildings, businesses and schools across the state.

Fevella felt the flag in the command room was more of a perception thing rather than a respect thing.

“I’m not telling them to only use only the Hawaiian flag,” the senator explained.

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Cronin did respond to Fevella a week later in which he communicated that the lack of the Hawaiian flag outside is in accordance with Army regulations, stating: “…the U.S. flag is to be flown by itself on a military installation in the United States. Closely related, however, State National Guard facilities are permitted to fly state flags as well.”

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Fevella felt Cronin’s explanation wasn’t logical.

“When you put a flag or something in the ground to mark it you’re making claims, and it’s (Pōhakuloa) not theirs,” the senator said.

Big Island Now reached out to PTA and they cited the same Army regulations as the reason why the Hawaiian flag wasn’t flying outside the training area.

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“Out of respect, and with a tremendous amount of pride, the Hawaii state flag is prominently displayed indoors, on a staff, in the Headquarters at Pōhakuloa Training Center, directly alongside the U.S. flag and the military colors for the U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa,” Michael O. Donnelly, Chief, External Communications for U.S. Army Garrison Hawai‘i, stated in an email to Big Island Now.

To the best of the command’s knowledge and known history, Donnelly stated the Hawaiian flag has not been flown outdoors at PTA, however, the command is conducting further research with the historian staff to see if this ever was the case. The flag pole at PTA is less than 5 years old, and since its completion, the U.S. flag has only been flown on this flag pole.

Fevella also stated in his letter his adamant opposition to the military renewing its lease of 23,000 acres of state land for continued training at PTA. He called for the return of this public landtrust at Pōhakuloa to the state.

“They think Hawai‘i is just a possession,” Fevella said, adding Hawai‘i is about the people.

The senator also noted to Big Island Now the type of training conducted at PTA they can do elsewhere.

“We’re not in 1960s, ’70s warfare,” Fevella said. “We get drones and airplanes. I just have a hard time with their reasoning for this possession.”

Cronin noted Fevella’s opposition to the renewed land lease in his letter back to the senator.

“We recognize and respect your thoughts about the military, more specifically about the critical training area at PTA,” the commander wrote. “As the current Garrison Commander, my duty is to ensure the caring of the land and respecting the culture are a priority.”

Cronin went on to write his honor and kuleana is to ensure “our men and women in uniform, including our Hawaii National Guard reservists, are prepared to go into harm’s way and return home safely to their Ohana.”

Fevella hopes the command personnel will have the flag of Hawai‘i prominently flown at Pōhakuloa immediately or before July 31, the official Flag Day in Hawai‘i nei.

“It is my firm belief the military must now redirect its efforts to cultivate these lands back to its original natural state. It is in the best interest of the Kānaka Maoli, the community and the State of Hawai‘i that these lands are given back to the people to steward,” wrote Fevella.

While not a Hawai‘i Island resident, Fevella said he needed to speak and cares about all the issues.

“I care because it’s the misrepresentation of Hawai‘i Island for decades,” he added. “I have a vested interest not only as a native Hawaiian but as a state senator.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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