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'Hawaii Five-0': Veterans group still protesting cemetery shoot

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Kevin Lynch/CBS

The Greatest Generations Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting respect for U.S. war veterans, wants what it deems a proper apology from Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov for events that took place on Dec. 9, when filming for the series coincided with 24 WWII veterans’ visit to the Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (known as the “Punchbowl”).

The CBS show was there to shoot a scene in which McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) visits his father’s grave. The vets were there to lay roses on the graves of the unknown. “While our veterans were doing this, the crew staff walked among the veterans telling them to keep quiet and stay out of the line site of the actors’ shot,” said Timothy Davis, President and CEO of Greatest Generations. “During our commemoration ceremony, there were various crew members who did stop and pay their respects for the National Anthem and the playing of ‘Taps,’ though there was still consistent movement of the production crew between the trucks and set which was set up on top of several headstones.”

Cemetery director Gene Castagnetti told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he had purposely separated the veterans and the TV crew to avoid problems, but was unaware that the vets had planned the special rose-laying ceremony close to where filming was occurring. Castagnetti also said that while he instructs cemetery employees to halt work whenever the National Anthem and “Taps” are played, he does expect it from others. Walking on graves when the markers are flush to the ground is unavoidable, he added.

Lenkov has issued an apology on behalf of the production unit to anyone who was “unintentionally offended” when their events collided.  (The show routinely works with the military, which vets scripts for the show, and has filmed before at the Punchbowl). “Our production crew is 80 percent staffed with local Hawaiians, many with ties to the military,” Lenkov said. “We recognize the privilege of filming in Hawaii and we are acutely aware of the deserved respect for its culture, history and the reverence that should be afforded to all of our veterans, particularly those who served so nobly in Hawaii and at Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, the series we produce carries a demonstrative pro-military message.”

He added that the crew had ceased production for the National Anthem and “Taps.” “When we resumed filming, we did encounter visitors from the ceremony. Any rudeness by our staff can only be attributed to haste to finish our work, not a lack of respect for men and women who have served and sacrificed for their country. And for that, too, we sincerely apologize to any that were offended.”

Davis issued his response:

While we would like to accept the apology provided by Peter Lenkov, it seems to us to be little more than a list of excuses for CBS’s actions and a couple reasons why we should either discontinue or feel guilty about making such actions known. The statement that the crew is 80 percent Hawaiian has nothing to do with the behavior displayed at the cemetery on December 9. Additionally, CBS purports to be a conservative network that honors veterans, yet this behavior stands in blatant contrast to Lenkov’s statements of patriotic sentiments. Telling veterans who want to revisit and honor fallen soldiers and sailors — their comrades — for the first and last time in 70 years to shush and get out of a shot is not at all in keeping with being ‘acutely aware of the deserved respect for […] the reverence that should be afforded to all of our veterans, particularly those who served so nobly in Hawaii and at Pearl Harbor.’ At the risk of sounding cliché, actions speak louder than words. I would like to resolve this issue as much as everyone else, but an apology for giving offense is not an apology for offensive action. On behalf of the veterans who were at the Punchbowl, and the thousands of veterans that we represent, we must decline Lenkov’s ‘apology’ and request that he acknowledge that the course of events — from trampling underfoot the headstones of those fallen warriors interred at the Punchbowl, to telling our veterans to be quiet and move from the camera shot, to refusing them two minutes time to meet with the celebrities of the show — was disrespectful, and to apologize to each of the veterans for what happened, not how our veterans felt.”