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Soldiers' aloha in Texas


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POSTED: Thursday, October 23, 2008

FORT HOOD, Texas » Hawaii's 29th Brigade Combat Team is going back to war.

More than 600 people — many of them from the islands — made a special trip yesterday to Fort Hood, Texas, near Waco, to give the “;Lava Brigade”; a Hawaii send-off as it prepared to leave for a nine-month tour in Kuwait at the end of the month.

It will be the 29th Brigade's third wartime mobilization — the first was in 1968 for the Vietnam War. Then it was the Iraq war in 2004. This time it will be Kuwait with convoy missions north into Iraq as far as Mosul, and manning security outposts at U.S. military installations in Kuwait.

Of the 2,200 citizen-soldiers in the brigade, 1,700 are from the islands. The remaining 500 soldiers are members of the 45th Fires Brigade, an artillery unit from the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Nearly half of the 500-seat covered bleachers were filled with family members from Hawaii and dignitaries including U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. Mike Gabbard. The military heads of the National Guard from Guam and Oklahoma as well as Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Inhofe also were present.

Gov. Linda Lingle did not attend yesterday's ceremony, but Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, state adjutant general, told brigade members before yesterday's hourlong ceremony that she will host a special dinner for them at Fort Hood on Sunday when they return from their four-day pass.

A touch of the islands was injected with the addition of the 450 orchid leis bought by the Windward Oahu Lions clubs and presented to soldiers of the brigade's 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry, by Tokuo and Agnes Tani. The couple's son, 2nd Lt. Gary Tani, and nephew, 2nd Lt. Kealihi Ichimura, are members of the unit, whose mission will be to escort military convoys from Kuwait to northern Iraq.

Tanya Siufanua brought her 3-month-old son, Ashton, to see his father, Staff Sgt. Rocky Siufanua, a member of the 100th Battalion. The three will spend the next four days visiting San Antonio.

Married for just two years, Tanya Siufanua acknowledged that “;it will be lonely”; with her husband away for nine months. “;But I have the baby to keep me busy.”;

Her visit to Fort Hood was marred when her luggage was broken into and items including her son's clothing were stolen.

Also attending yesterday's ceremony was Shan Resinto, who was traveling with three other “;Army wives from Kauai.”; They flew to Killen, where Fort Hood is located, to spend the next four days “;relaxing and just cruising”; with their husbands before they deploy for Kuwait. This will be the second combat tour for her husband, Staff Sgt. Eddie Resinto, and his friends Staff Sgt. Lloyd Agrade, Spc. Jack Pescador and Spc. Efren Yanos.

Lee told reporters before the ceremony that 84 percent of the 1,700 soldiers from Hawaii have made at least one combat tour. Some of the soldiers have made as many as four.

In a written statement, Akaka reiterated his “;commitment”; to the families of the 2,200 soldiers standing in formation at Fort Hood's Sadowski parade ground in front of the III Corps Headquarters. “;Each and every troop member needs to know that that while they are away protecting and defending our nation that their loved ones will be treated and cared for as part of our ohana, or family.”;