FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Anti-war protesters rallied outside the federal building along Ala Moana Boulevard yesterday in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, who has been charged for refusing to deploy to Iraq. Father Bob Watada, right, and stepmother Rosa Sakanishi showed their support.
Bob Watada cheering for son’s biggest match
The Army officer can beat a court-martial, his dad tells backers
Just as he rooted from the sidelines of tennis matches years ago, Bob Watada continues to support his son, who now faces a court-martial for refusing to serve in the Iraq war.
Yesterday, Watada cheered from the curbside of Ala Moana Boulevard, where a group of 30 supporters and anti-war protesters waved signs to commuters yesterday afternoon in support of Lt. Ehren Watada.
"I have always been one of those dads at every game and practice," said the 67-year-old father, wearing a T-shirt with his son's picture.
Ehren Watada, who refused to leave with his Washington-based Stryker brigade, has been charged by the Army with missing movement, contempt for officials and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Bob Watada said that if he is found guilty, his son could face 7 1/2 years in prison. Lawyer Eric Seitz is scheduled to meet with Ehren Watada this weekend to discuss legal matters.
Yesterday's demonstration was organized by the anti-war group World Can't Wait.
As people driving by honked their horns in support or opposition, 66-year-old Army veteran Keith Haugen played his ukulele and sang freedom songs.
"Their honking tells me that they are aware of the issue of war and how it's just plain wrong," he said.
A few nights before learning of the charges revealed Wednesday, Bob Watada gave his 28-year-old son a pep talk and told him to "just wait and be patient."
"Although I whip him in a singles match, together we prevail on the court," said Bob Watada, fanning himself with a national tennis championship hat. "And trust me, we're going to do it again when we fight these charges."
Bob Watada, former executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission and his son's former Little League baseball coach, chose not to fight in the Vietnam War after his brother died during the Korean War more than four decades ago.
Instead, he went to Peru and served in the Peace Corps, where he met his wife of six years, Rosa Sakanishi.
"I credit the Vietnam War for meeting Rosa," he said. "I feel good things will come to my son."
Sakanishi said she has stood beside her husband at countless tennis and soccer matches, and most recently at rallies in Washington.
"I treat Ehren as if he were my own son," said the 63-year-old. "I watched him grow up, and today I will watch him succeed."