Column: Show aloha for military in Hawaii
During Military Appreciation Month, please take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices of the brave members of the Armed Forces who go for us.
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Hawaii’s geographic location is of significant strategic importance to the defense of our nation. Many experts agree that a strong military posture in Hawaii, with the ability to deploy quickly into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is imperative. But beyond defending our country, the more than 47,000 military personnel stationed here and an additional 100,000 veterans who call our islands home are an important part of our community — they are our friends, neighbors and ohana.
Each year, the month of May is nationally recognized as Military Appreciation Month, and it gives us an opportunity to spotlight the men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they and their families make in defense of our nation and our way of life. These warriors voluntarily stepped forward to serve our nation with a level of commitment and sacrifice most of us will never fully comprehend.
A soldier or Marine could be deployed to stand watch in a faraway place, missing the birth of a new baby. Or, while sailors are on a nine-month mission, their spouse is home packing up and moving their family to a new assignment. And, their children, brave in their own right, could move three times during their elementary school years. With schools on Schofield Barracks and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, one-third of the entire student population can turn over each year.
There are many amazing things the military does in our community that oftentimes go unnoticed or unrecognized. For example, military members support our first-responders in times of need, providing firefighting coverage not only for the Pohakuloa Training Area but for all the surrounding communities on Hawaii island.
When there is a fire on the west side of Oahu, whether in proximity to Makua Valley or not, and Honolulu firefighters need backup, our military will quickly step forward upon receiving the call.
They provide support to their brothers and sisters at the Hawaii National Guard in times of natural disaster — they were there for the Kilauea lava flow and the flooding on the north side of Kauai. Why? Because they are trained servant leaders and are a part of our community.
In addition to all of the support the military provides our island community, we can’t forget that it continues to be Hawaii’s second-largest economic driver at approximately $7 billion annually — $2 billion spent on defense contracts and an estimated $5 billion in personnel payroll, dollars that stay in our economy.
The defense sector supports more than 20,000 jobs across Hawaii, many of which are high-earning, professional careers for local residents. There are also meaningful opportunities for hundreds of local businesses that benefit from military spending and defense contracts.
There is much more to the military’s presence than economics, financial projections and job numbers. They truly are a part of the social fabric of our island community and an integral part of our ohana.
In return, when our Army, Marines and National Guard leaders say they need to be assured of adequate training lands to practice their maneuvers — so when called to duty and put in harm’s way, they are prepared to do their jobs and able to return home safely — we must in turn step up to support them. This is a small commitment and investment that our community should make to help our men and women of the military.
During Military Appreciation Month, please take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices of the brave members of the Armed Forces who go for us. And then, make it a point to stop a military warrior you see on the street, in the market or at the airport and say “mahalo” — we are honored to have you in our community.