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Hawaii kicks off Military Appreciation Month

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating speaks at the Hawaii Military Appreciation Month kickoff at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island May 2 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Admiral Keating is the commander of U.S. Pacific Command. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating speaks at the Hawaii Military Appreciation Month kickoff at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island May 2 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Admiral Keating is the commander of U.S. Pacific Command. (U.S. Air Force photo)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AFNEWS) -- "Ohana" or family is a concept that runs deep in Hawaii. Ohana includes not only one's personal family, but also their community. In Hawaii, ohana extends to the military.

For the 22nd year in a row, Hawaii's business and government leaders came together to thank U.S. servicemembers during the kickoff celebration for Hawaii's Military Appreciation Month.

"Many communities have a military appreciation day, or a military appreciation week, but you have military appreciation month," said Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command. "That is a visible expression of the 7/24/365 ohana that each of you provide to those of us in uniform and more importantly to our families, and it is greatly appreciated."

More than 56,000 active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guardsmen and their families are stationed in Hawaii. Nearly 10,000 of them are deployed around the world with more joining their ranks every day.

With so many military members "off-island," Military Appreciation Month is an opportunity to not only give thanks, but acknowledge the challenges faced by the families left behind.

"We're very appreciative to the families who sacrifice the time they have alone with their spouses," said Duke Aiona, Hawaii's lieutenant governor. "We're very thankful of the children of the men and women of our military who each and every day cry and pray and think about their mom or dad who is serving, whether it is in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or some other part of the world."

This month, servicemembers and their families will be treated to a combined Military Band Concert in downtown Honolulu, a Living History Day at the Army Museum on Fort Derussy in Waikiki, a Military Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and a day at the zoo, sponsored by Honolulu's mayor and the County of Honolulu.