Whilst we are here in Hawaii, we have decided to partake of as many free attractions as possible. Because we are cheap. And we also lack money.

I suppose if we had unlimited funds, we would spend the weekends exploring the Big Island or Maui or spend this week off jetting to Australia as my daughter reports her classmates are doing. But Punchbowl is actually pretty cool.

Now, if I had limited time on Oahu and could see either Punchbowl or the USS Arizona, I’d go with Arizona. But if you are in the downtown-ish area and you have a bit of free time, check out Punchbowl.

It’s a military cemetery and WWII monument made, I guess, in a volcano. The coolest thing about it is you look down upon all the high rise buildings. At this angle, the ocean appears to be nearly the same height as the buildings. Down below, you can see a football stadium (U of H or was it a high school?) and feel like a giant God, like the scene in Clash of the Titans where Zeus and co. peer down upon mortals and crush them.

The path up the hill is long and winding and occasionally precarious. FALLING ROCK signs are on one side, drop offs on the other, blind corners and careless drivers all make for an exciting trip. Plus, there are literally shacks full of garbage next to mansions built to see the ocean. It’s an interesting mix.

Drive all the way into the back and make your way up the many steps to the monument, which has colorful maps of WWII battles. Along the way, check out the crypts. At first I couldn’t see any writing at all, but realized these were all inscribed in white. Medal of Honor winners have a gold star and their names darkened. There were more than I suspected.

We didn’t spend too much time here, because Kaiya fell down not once, but twice, skinning her knees, blood soaking through her dress. And the battle maps only made sense to my husband.

The weather downtown was hot and muggy, but up there it was breezy.
By the parking area to the right of the monument, there was a group of soldiers with Japanese surnames, probably all from Hawaii, who had also served.

When you ascend the steps and you turn and you look down at the fields and hills of gravestones, stretching down into Honolulu, you get a sense of how many people died for this country, and of how tenuous our freedom is. I couldn’t help looking at Ethan, happily finding all the Medal of Honor winners, and wondering if he too will one day be called to battle, and of how much care we should take in choosing when to fight.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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