10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
STAR-BULLETIN / 2004
Soldiers marched off the field after a ceremony for the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade at Aloha Stadium before the group left for Iraq.
Guard, Reserve answered call to duty
The soldiers’ families also had a tough year of absence and anxiety
HAWAII ARMY NATIONAL GUARD
They come from all walks of life: teachers, construction workers, police officers, lawyers, nurses and students.
They are our neighbors and friends. But more than that, they are our husbands and wives, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, and our mothers and fathers.
Through the end of the year, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
For more than 2,200 members of the Hawaii Army National Guard and Reserves, life here at home was put on hold for most of this year after answering the call of duty to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While some 400 of the citizen soldiers already have returned, the winter holidays for the rest are likely to be celebrated after their expected return in late January and early February.
"That's tough on families, when kids have to deal with not having Daddy home for Christmas and things like that," said Guard spokesman Maj. Charles Anthony, who served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. "Consequently, though, I think a lot of families are planning to have Christmas late this year."
Most of those still deployed belong to the 29th Brigade Combat Team.
"I'd definitely have to say it's been a growing experience for most of them," Anthony said. "For a lot of families, it's meant having to deal with the anxiety of having a loved one in harm's way."
With such a high concentration of military families in the islands, it was hard to imagine a day going by where someone's heart didn't leap upon hearing news of U.S. bases being attacked in Iraq or troops meeting enemy fire while on patrol in the region.
In that sense, the deployments have probably been tougher on family members, says Anthony.
"Somebody in Iraq knows what's going on," he said. "Even though we have a great deal more connectivity to a combat zone than we've ever had before ... families at home are still pretty much kept in the dark.
"Because they don't know what's going on, they worry more. They have that aspect to contend with. ... It's not easy."
Their sacrifices have been recognized and appreciated.
Whether it was Gov. Linda Lingle asking audience members at a luncheon to remember Hawaii's troops in their prayers, or the car in front of you on the highway bearing two, three, sometimes even four or five magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbons, it was hard to not be mindful of the Guard's deployment.
The impact of the war perhaps hit hardest on July 8, when the Hawaii Guard suffered its first combat death since Vietnam. Sgt. Deyson Ken Cariaga, a 20-year-old native of Kalihi and Roosevelt High graduate, was killed when his Humvee drove over a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq.
Most recently, a Wahiawa family mourned the death of Sgt. Myla L. Maravillosa, who died Christmas Eve from injuries suffered when her Humvee patrol came under attack in Kirkuk. Although she was not stationed in Hawaii, the 24-year-old Army reservist was a graduate of Leilehua High School who had goals of attending Hawaii Pacific University and potentially working for the U.S. Foreign Service, her mother said.
Guard members can expect appreciation events statewide once they return home.
Events include a Waikiki parade in May as part of Military Appreciation Month, and "Freedom Salutes" for each unit, at which the troops are recognized for their service. The Freedom Salutes will be held on all islands once all of the Guard units are demobilized, Anthony said.
"It's an opportunity to hear the governor or other dignitaries, let them know that the job they've done is appreciated," he said. "It's a way to let the soldiers get some well-deserved recognition with their families there."