Spc. Floro Della and Staff Sgt. Mel Mizukami, both Army Reservists, are two small Maui contractors who will lose a lot financially by giving up their civilian jobs for at least a year while serving in Iraq next year with the 411th Engineer Combat Battalion.

Some reservists hit hard
by short call-up notice

Several small-business owners
are rushing to get affairs in order

Maui independent contractor and Army Reservist Floro Della is upset -- not because he has been called up, but because he had little time to prepare his business and personal life for the year he will be in Iraq.

"I am really angry, because I do love my country and I do want to serve, but I am a small-business owner and I should have been given more warning," said Spc. Della, an Army National Guard and Army reservist for the past 10 years.

Staff Sgt. Mel Mizukami, another small-business owner on Maui and member of the 411th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), closed his Valley Isle Maintenance & Repairs as he prepared to join members of his unit at Schofield Barracks next month.

More than 350 members of the 411th from Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, along with another 200 soldiers from Alaska and Guam, will begin at least a month of training at Schofield Barracks as they prepare to join the 1st Cavalry Division for a yearlong Iraqi deployment.

"I am a leader and since I am going to war, I will have to take care of my squad," said Mizukami, who has been in the Army, the Hawaii Army National Guard and the Army Reserve for nearly 18 years. "I want to make sure that is the only thing I have to worry about -- making sure my squad is OK."

Della, Mizukami and many of the soldiers from Hawaii are beginning to realize the economic burdens of giving up lucrative civilian jobs to go to war.

Della, 37, will have to lay off four workers at his Della Builders & Construction in Kahului, which has been building an average of six to eight homes a year.

As an Army specialist, Della will earn only $48,000 a year (including combat pay and other allowances) and he characterized his loss of income as "big time."

"I was supposed to start four projects in January, but now I have to turn them down," Della said.

As for the half-dozen projects that need to be completed within the coming year, Della says he will turn them over to "a friend whom I can trust to finish what I started ... and then I will close everything."

"I am really worried," he said. "I have already told my clients, but still I won't be here to oversee the completion of these projects."

Married with three children, Della already is paying college tuition for a son attending school in Michigan. He also has a daughter who will graduate from high school in June and also wants to attend college.

Mizukami, 53, for the past eight years held agreements with Longs, Foodland Super Market and occasionally the Maui News to maintain their buildings. He also remodeled homes and apartments on Maui.

He said he also will suffer a financial loss since a staff sergeant earns only $65,000 annually.

Divorced with a grandchild, Mizukami said he had "a feeling since 9/11 that there just wasn't enough troops to go around and eventually we would go."

So he has spent last month taking inventory, storing his tools, and making sure his two cars and truck will be taken care of while he is gone.

"Everything is so iffy now that I gave my dog away since I didn't know what was happening," Mizukami said.

Della said he doesn't believe his unit was given enough time to prepare.

"The colonel came to Maui in early November and told us that something was coming up, but we weren't given details then where and how long," Della said. "They also told us then that our two weeks of annual training, which is normally held in May, would be moved up to December. That caused a lot of stress as I tried to speed up my projects to stay ahead of the game."

Just after Thanksgiving, Della said, he got the official word that the 411th would be away for a year in Iraq.

"As a soldier, I also expected that I could be called up, but since I belonged to an engineer unit, I never expected to go to war," he said.

Della joined the Hawaii Army National Guard nearly 10 years after graduating from Baldwin High School in 1984 because construction work was down on Maui and he still had "a dream to be a soldier and experience Army life."


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 --