Billie Gabriel is making monumental strides on a national level in honoring and recognizing Hawaii’s servicemen who fought and died in the Vietnam War. Gabriel whose brother James “Kimo” Gabriel Jr. was killed 1962 in Vietnam has been pioneering The Hawaii Call For Photos, a national campaign initiated by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) devoted to gathering photos of the 58,272 servicemen whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To preserve the memory of those fallen soldiers for future generations, the photos will be used in the new $85 million education center complex which is currently under construction underneath the wall. With 276 names of Hawaii servicemen who lost their lives in Vietnam, Gabriel who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover in 1996 with her daughter Kona Carmack has been able to gather 127 photos thus far and seems determined to complete this project.
“We want to ensure that all our Hawaii servicemen are represented with their photos and honored in the education center,” says Gabriel, who resigned as vice president of Easter Seals Hawaii in 2006 and has worked as associate producer of the Hawaii Romance Festival.
Gabriel takes great pride in being able to assist in this national memorial project.
“As the sister of the first Hawaii casualty of the Vietnam conflict, this has been a humbling experience,” Gabriel says. “It’s been a joyful and sometimes tearful journey with many of these families. I’ve talked to sisters, mothers, sons, nieces, uncles and classmates, and each is proud to share a special memory about their loved one. An unspoken bond among all these families has emerged as a result of this project.”
Aside from preserving America’s historical past, Gabriel also enjoys experimenting with new recipes and wine pairing. She also has started her own one-of-a kind jewelry line named billie g.
“I will also be welcoming my first grandchild in November, so I’m sure that will keep me busy,” adds Gabriel.
Families or friends who would like to submit photos for the Hawaii Call For Photo can call 497-7264 for more information.
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