AS Veterans Day approaches, you become more aware that there are veterans, and then there are veterans.
This Rainbow became
a real warrior
All you have to do is look at license plates to know there are very definite classes of people who served in the armed forces, stratified by the level of their sacrifice.
The backs of cars tell us there are plain-old veterans, war veterans, combat veterans and combat-wounded veterans.
My very mediocre peacetime Army Reserve career technically qualifies me as a veteran, but that's sort of like saying Bob Uecker was a baseball player.
One of the few good things that happened to me in the military was getting to know Doug Nomura. He helped me make it through boot camp.
If you are a University of Hawaii football fan, you might remember Nomura as an overachieving long snapper who played for the Rainbows from 1981 to 1984.
Now he is Maj. Doug Nomura, U.S. Army.
Nomura, 38, is stationed in Bahrain, a strategically located republic in the Middle East. It is not the safest place to be right now.
"Americans are always a target here. Even if you're a civilian working as a contractor, you can never really put your guard down. We've been on a high state of alert for over two weeks, since the USS Cole was attacked," said Nomura, executive officer of a transportation battalion that supports units throughout the Middle East.
Although Nomura knows he is in harm's way, and he misses plate lunches and watching St. Louis School football games (he starred as a Crusader linebacker), he said he doesn't mind being 11 time zones away from his childhood home in Ewa Beach.
"I'm in love with Bahrain," Nomura said. "We actually turned down an assignment in Hawaii to be here. When this opened I asked my wife (Anela) about it and she shocked me by saying let's try it. I retire in 4 years so I might never get another chance to be stationed in a place like this. I can always come back to Hawaii."
Nomura said he keeps in contact with Col. Bill Olds, the ROTC commander at UH who helped steer Nomura toward an Army career.
He was one of many Rainbow football players to take ROTC classes at the time. Nathan Fletcher, Kesi Afalava, Mark Tuinei and Gary Allen were just the ones Nomura could remember off the top of his head.
"Coach (Dick) Tomey and Colonel Olds were good friends," Nomura said. "The football team had some discipline problems, and Colonel Olds helped instill pride. Colonel Olds wouldn't take any (crap) from anyone."
The situation benefited both the ROTC program and the football team.
NOMURA was one of the few to go on to a military career. It's taken him all over the world -- including six months in Croatia at the height of the crisis there.
"You ask yourself, 'Why do human beings do this to one another? What would make someone think of all these evil things to do?' Before, they were neighbors, their kids played with each other, then they killed each other," Nomura said.
"It makes you appreciate America, and helps you feel that the job you're doing is important," he added.
Nomura owns a home in Virginia, so he's not sure about when he will return.
"Anyone in the military will tell you home is where you lay your head and you make the best of it," Nomura said. "I'd like to retire to Hawaii someday, maybe help out at St. Louis JROTC. It really is about giving back."
Apparently, that's true even for a real veteran, who's been giving for us all nearly 20 years.
Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii from 1977 to 1998,
moved to the the Gainesville Sun, then returned to
the Star-Bulletin in Jan. 2000.
E-mail Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org