Sunday, 2 September 2007 9:32 AM

History Made Right, US Honours Eroni 26 Years Later

As most Solomon Islanders can recount, one of the great Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, once graced our shores, not as a Statesman but as a soldier during World War Two.

Michael Field of Fairfax Media reported that during the Guadalcanal campaign, the deaf and now nearly blind, Eroni "Aaron" Kumana, came across a shipwrecked US Navy crew far behind Japanese lines and paddled 60 kilometres to get them help, carrying a message carved into a coconut by a lieutenant. The lieutenant would, 18 years later, become President John F Kennedy.

Kennedy did not forget his rescuers when he became President in 1961. He invited Mr Kumana and Mr Gasa, another rescuer who has since passed away, to his presidential inauguration but our local officials thought they were too 'uncivilized' for the honour and sent some of their own officials instead. Two years later, Kennedy was assassinated.

"I mourned for a whole week upon hearing of my friend's death," Mr Kumana said.

During the past two weeks, the amphibious assault ship, USS Peleliu, visited the Solomon Islands, assisting in rehabilitation efforts in the Western and Choiseul Provinces after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in early April this year.

On board the USS Peleliu was US Navy Secretary, Donald Winter, who flew in to present gifts including an American flag to Kumana, putting right an outstanding thank you gesture from the American people. Winter was quoted by Michael Field of Fairfax Media, as saying "He changed our history...and I'm very thankful to him for doing it."

Solomon Islanders can claim, with a great sense of pride, that they have, in a way, contributed to the political history of the United States, in rescuing a man who would go on to become, arguably, one of the more inspirational Presidents of the United States of America.

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By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
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