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Always Honoring Our Veterans

April 4, 2024 (The Maui News, April 5, 2024)

By: Alma Tassi


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After a tour in Iraq in 2004 and nine years in the military, Chelsea Fernandez decided to move on from service and spend more time with her family. Although she left the Army, her unwavering commitment to her fellow veterans continues. As a community leader, she has ensured veterans receive the resources and acknowledgment they deserve, including helping to bring the Vietnam Memorial The Wall that Heals to Maui.


Born and raised on the island of Hawai’i, Fernandez moved to Maui twenty years ago and initially worked as an accountant. Her dad, a real estate investor, urged her to get her real estate license and in 2019 she followed his advice. A few months later, when COVID impacted her job at a resort, she luckily had her license to fall back on.


Through all her relationship-building in the community, Fernandez has consistently supported veteran activities and in 2014 became a board member of the Maui County Veterans Council. The nonprofit is an umbrella organization comprised of various veteran organizations across Maui County that honor veterans through community events and awareness campaigns.


One of the council’s most recent projects took over a year to organize. The Wall that Heals is a touring wall replica and mobile education center. The three-quarter scale replica spreads 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high. The exhibit includes a Hometown Heroes display, memorabilia, and informational displays. Since 2011, the memorial has toured nationwide reaching more than 222,000 visitors.


A group of veterans on the island of Hawai’i sparked interest in hosting the wall on the islands and Maui joined in the efforts. Once the approval to Maui came in the summer of 2023, the team only had six months to fundraise and coordinate the logistics. Fernandez says, “It definitely took a team to get a 53-foot trailer over the Pacific Ocean.” She acted as the Volunteer and Ceremonies Coordinator for the week-long event from February 8 - 14, 2024, including daily special events and speakers. Fellow RAM member Mike Trotto joined in to help on-site at the exhibit.


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Chelsea Fernandez and her husband take down the last panel as they disassembled the Wall that Heals on Feb 14.

The Wall has been an opportunity to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Mayor Richard Bissen says, “I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and to all who have worked tirelessly to bring The Wall to Maui.”


The Maui Veterans Council’s next event is its 10th Annual Vietnam Veterans Memorial candlelight ceremony on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at the Kalana o Maui, County Building, 200 South High Street, Wailuku. The day marks the end of the Vietnam War and the ceremony starts at 5:30 pm. Fernandez says, “Anyone can come to observe the end of the war and remember 43 fallen from Maui County.”

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