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Say thanks to military, and know that training here is vital to freedom

By Allen Hoe

LAST UPDATED: 2:23 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

This weekend as we reflect on 235 years of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we also note the irony that are at war with an enemy who seeks to destroy the thing we value above all else — our freedom.

The June 28 headline, "3 Schofield Barracks soldiers killed in Afghanistan," was a stark reminder of the price of freedom. For the Del Castillo, Kelly and Hillaman families, their July Fourth experiences are forever changed. Hopefully they will look back not with remorse but rather with pride in their loved ones' service, to sustain the vision of the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776.

The traditions of ohana include all our sons and daughters in uniform. Their success is an obligation extending beyond the "fence line" of Schofield Barracks and Pohakuloa on the Big Island.

Each citizen has a duty in preserving freedom. Soldiers who protect us need every resource available to hone their skills. Access to vital training areas as well as supporting the emotional needs of their families, by facilitating training at home is vital.

"Our Army" is a good steward of its training areas. Their leaders appreciate the value of our natural, cultural and historic resources, perhaps something their predecessors simply took for granted.

The U.S. Army Pacific commander, Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski — an advocate of renewable energy, recycling and wastewater treatment — is proud that the Army spends more money, hires more people to protect the flora and fauna, the land, cultural practices and sites than any organization of comparable size.

Its Natural Resources Program is the largest in the Defense Department. Its scientists and other partners have rescued several endangered species from extinction.

Hawaii's host culture is also a priority for the Army. Its Cultural Resources Management Program staff protects more than 1,000 archaeological sites over 132,000 acres, including nearly 800 historic buildings and structures within three National Historic Landmark Districts and two Historic Districts.

Lokalia Montgomery, my grand-aunt, the renowned cultural icon of hula and chant, loved to share her story of teaching hula and Hawaiian culture to the wives of Army officers stationed at Schofield Barracks in 1920s.

Take a moment this Fourth of July to remember the courage and commitment of our sons and daughters serving in harm's way; to thank a soldier and his or her family; to say mahalo for the sound of helicopters practicing their combat flying skills on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Lastly, say a special prayer for the families who have lost a loved one in the cause of freedom.

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