The children of Teodoro Padua have all followed his footsteps and entered the military. From left, Hannali, Diana and Theodore Padua recently took a break from shopping at Ala Moana.

Paduas follow father
into military service


By Leila Fujimori

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Teodoro Padua didn't want his children to follow in his footsteps.

But his three sons and three daughters did, and all ended up wearing military uniforms with pride -- two in the Navy, two in the Army Reserve, one in the Air Force and one in the Hawaii Army National Guard.

"He didn't want us to go into the military," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Hannali Padua, 22, who joined at 17. "He wanted his children to become professionals. He didn't like me going into the military because I was a girl.

"But when I did, he accepted it and was really proud of me," she said.

Teodoro Padua, who was from the Philippines, joined the U.S. Navy so he could give his family a better life in America. He died in October 2001, but lived to see all his children serve his chosen country in the military.

"We are all continuing school, so my dad's dream will go fulfilled," said Hannali, a full-time communications major who plans to use her degree to become an officer.

Greg Padua, 33, is a Navy petty officer 2nd class stationed at Ford Island with the elite Navy SEALs.

The physical nature of the work afforded in the Navy initially drew Hannali, who describes herself as the gutsy, adventurous type.

However, the eldest, Leilani Padua, 34, is "the soft person in the family," Hannali said. Leilani already had a bachelor's degree in psychology, was working as a social worker and pursuing a nursing degree.

Leilani decided to brave boot camp in the Army Reserve so the military would pay for her education.

"I told her, 'You're going to actually have to run,'" Hannali said. "She asked me, 'What if I just jog?'"

Leilani, who holds the rank of specialist, is stationed in Texas, where she attends technical school.

The youngest, Diana Padua, 20, the self-professed "most stubborn" in the family, had no intention of joining the military and planned to open a business after college.

But she enlisted after her brother encouraged her to join the Army Reserve and become an X-ray technician, so she could support herself.

"It forced me to grow up and helped me interact with other cultures," said Diana, a business major, who works at Tripler as a reservist and as an X-ray technician at a civilian hospital. "It opened up my eyes to see how small Hawaii is compared with the rest of the world.

"My mom didn't want me to go into the Army, but I'm glad I did," she said. "It made me very ambitious and makes me very competitive."

John Padua, 26, now an Air Force senior airman stationed in Washington state, said: "Our dad was a big figure in our lives. That's why we ended up joining the military."

His father wanted him to get a bachelor's degree before joining the Navy or Air Force. But after two years in college, he defied his father's wishes and enlisted in the Marine Corps, which he left a year ago because promotion was too slow.

For Sgt. 1st Class Theodore Padua, it was hearing his father recount stories about Vietnam, the places he traveled to, the friends he made and lost and the sense of pride, that made him join the Hawaii Army National Guard full-time at age 18.

"It was intriguing to me how one job can provide so much," said the 31-year-old.

"He didn't have to say anything," he said. "You just look at his scars and you just say 'wow.'"

His father was shot in Vietnam when he left his boat trying to retrieve dog tags from the body of an American GI floating in a river.

With a degree in nursing, Theodore could make more money as a civilian nurse, but he said he's still saving lives as an intelligence analyst.

There's also a special camaraderie and friendship that goes beyond anything found in the civilian sector.

Teodoro Padua: Lived long enough to see all 6 of his children enlist in the military

"I would ask a civilian, 'Would you die for your co-worker?'" he said. "I know the guys who I lead would give their lives to me, and I would give my life to them."

The Paduas also enjoy taking leadership roles, not for the authority, but for the responsibility.

"When you become a leader, you're leading someone's son, dad or mom," Theodore said. "At time of war, you bring everybody home. I think I can make a big difference to get these guys home."

They share the same leadership mentality, John said. "They want everything to run smoothly."

Although the Padua children were young or not yet born while their family moved from place to place on the mainland and in Asia, the military offered familiarity and security.

"We lived on a military installation with military people," said Theodore. "As we grew up and wandered the world, we always came back to the military because that was like our home."

But being a military family is not without sacrifices. Because they are stationed apart, they couldn't celebrate the holidays together. And when Theodore married in September, only two siblings could attend.

Though separated by distance, military service has "brought me and my brothers and sisters closer," Diana said. "We understand what each other is going through and we make a lot of the time we have together."

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --