Beginning in 2011 with the first “A Salute to Our Veterans” Hilo Bay 5K Run/Walk, George H. Kelly, commander of VFW Post 3830, already battling cancer, helped found and support the event.
This year, the Fourth of July event will be hosted in his honor.
In 2011, pushed by supporters, he won the Best Decorated Wheelchair category. By 2012, with some improvement in his condition and a firm commitment to walk the event, he finished against all odds, using a walker.
By July 4, 2013, in poor health, but high spirits, surrounded by more than a dozen fellow veteran Marines and friends, he once again captured the Best Decorated Wheelchair category and, as a unit, they won the Largest Group award that year.
Kelly died the next day, surrounded by family members, and his legacy continues through the many post activities he began and nurtured throughout the years.
“Commander Kelly is known for his many contributions to VFW Post 3830 and other veteran programs and has been recognized for his leadership in these programs with various state and national awards,” said event spokeswoman Marlene Hapai.
He is especially known for his focus on involving post members in veteran outreach programs, including retrofitting veterans’ homes to accommodate disability needs; transporting veterans to and from medical services; helping homeless veterans obtain benefits; mailing care packages to veterans overseas; providing scholarships for young students; cleaning local veterans’ cemeteries, donating wheelchairs and walkers to those in need; and visiting and organizing activities to lift the spirits of fellow servicemen/women at various long-term care centers such as Hale Anuenue, Life Care Center of Hilo, Hilo Medical Center and the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.
“If we could choose the last two days of our lives and who we would like to be surrounded by, friends, then family, would be the perfect closure. And, if your life included serving in the U.S. Marines in Vietnam in your early years and spending your sunset years dedicating your life to — first as member and then commander of — the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3830 in Pahoa, working daily to improve the lives of other veterans, those friends surrounding you would be fellow veterans who have embraced the same life-long mission,” Hapai said.
All are invited to join VFW Post 3830 at 7 a.m. Friday, July 4, at Lili‘uokalani Gardens in Hilo for “A Salute to Our Veterans” Hilo Bay 5K Run/Walk, with prizes for age groups for runners and walkers and special prizes for Fastest Male and Female, Most Patriotically Dressed, Best Decorated Wheelchair, Largest Group, Youngest/Oldest, and From Farthest Away.
Registration is underway, and can be done online or via forms downloaded and mailed in. All forms and information are available on the post website and special event website at www.vfwpost3830.com or www.asalutetoourveterans.org, respectively.
Forms can also be picked up at the post in Nanawale or at the following locations: Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, Community Based Outreach Clinic, BJ Penn, Spencer’s Health &Fitness, Mid Pacific Wheels, The Bike Hub, Keaukaha Military Reserve BX/PX, Resolution Gym, Cross Fit Hilo Iron and Aloha Fitness Club.
Packet pickup and final registration is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, July 3, at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and 6-6:45 a.m. July 4 at Lili‘uokalani Gardens. The race begins at 7 a.m. on the Fourth of July. Registering on the day before is preferable, to ensure the run beginning on time. For more information, contact Hapai at 966-9894 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A donation of $25 is asked, with proceeds to go to the post’s building fund to better serve veterans and their families.
“For this, you’ll get a T-shirt, bag, bib, the chance to win 128 prizes and lots of fun. All are invited to participate,” Hapai said.