Working in concert


POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009

She was, in her own words, “;just a housewife with an idea”; who wanted to do something to entertain Hawaii Army National Guard troops deployed to the Middle East and share the experience with the people of Hawaii. Paoakalani Chang Naluai had no funding, no experience as a concert producer, and with her husband on deployment and as the mother of four girls—three of them preschoolers, the youngest a newborn—she was busy every waking hour.

To say the odds were stacked against her would be an understatement. No one would be getting paid, the military wouldn't commit to accept the tour until the entertainers were committed to it but the entertainers couldn't commit until the military did.

Naluai spent the first four months of the year working on it at night while the kids were sleeping. Piece by piece it all came together as “;Da Sand Jam '09,”; a tour of 30 entertainers, hula dancers and an OC16 camera crew that entertained troops of the Hawaii National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade in Kuwait last May.

“;I'm blown away by it every time that I think about it,”; says her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Alika Naluai, of Delta Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment.

“;Not only was it done for the soldiers in that moment in time, but it was documented by OC16. None of that would have happened if it wasn't for her idea and her tenacity.”;

Alika nominated his wife for the 10 Who Made a Difference award at a friend's suggestion. They're celebrating their anniversary Sunday.

OC16 produced two two-hour specials, “;Aloha Kuwait”; and “;Aloha Kuwait—Homecoming,”; that gave Hawaii audiences glimpses of the lives of citizen soldiers on deployment and also covered their experiences returning home and facing the challenges of assimilating back into civilian life.

Alika Naluai helped pull things together in Kuwait. Army Support Group-Kuwait agreed to provide funding for the tour. The 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion stepped up to cover room, board and ground transportation. Members of his unit provided security. Hawaii businesses donated gifts for distribution to the troops.

Vaihi, B.E.T. (Big Every Time), Kaleo, Miss Hawaii 2008 Nicole Fox and the hula troupe donated their time to give the troops a show full of live local music and hula.

Alika describes the response as “;record-setting.”;

“;The Area Support Group-Kuwait personnel told me they'd never seen a turnout like that. The biggest turnout they'd had for Kid Rock or some of the other big names was 300 or 400. For her (show) they had 1,400.

“;Everyone that I talked to thought she was doing it professionally, that it was her job, but no. She just had an idea and she wanted to run with it, and it turned out awesome.”;

In nominating his wife, Alika wrote, “;Paoakalani succeeded, despite all the odds. She embodies the ideals that America was founded on, hard work, determination, selfless sacrificing and daring to make impossible dreams come true.”;

Paoakalani Chang Nalaui did all of that and more. In a year when many people were forced by circumstances to concentrate on their own welfare and personal well-being, she dreamed of doing the “;impossible,”; made it happen and made a difference.