BY ROBERT G. F. LEE – Since my retirement seven months ago as Hawai‘i’s Adjutant General and director of the State Department of Defense, I have had more time to catch up on my readings, organize the family’s finances to manage retirement income, and even get in a few more rounds of golf than usual.
During this past summer, like most Americans, I was very disturbed to witness the wild swings of the stock market and watch my 401k and IRA portfolio melt down once again. Failure by the U.S. Congress to agree on our country’s debt ceiling roiled the markets. Today and for the foreseeable future we will have an atmosphere of uncertainty facing citizens from every walk of life across the state.
In Hawai‘i we will be witness to a changing of the guard in our U.S. Senate. I cannot remember casting a vote for someone other than Dan Inouye or Dan Akaka in my lifetime. It has been an absolute pleasure working with these two patriots throughout my career. A special and respectful mahalo goes out to Senator Akaka for his tremendous support of our military forces, veterans and families. I wish him, Millie, and his family the very best and a very well-deserved retirement at the end of next year.
Although I have never been a member of the Democrat or Republican Party I have always voted because I firmly believe that elections matter. I have always voted for the person over party. I have done my best to educate myself on the issues at hand and analyze how the candidates stand on the important issues of the day and for the future.
One person that I have personally seen with the utmost of integrity and bold, independent courage these past eight years is Governor Linda Lingle. It is no secret that the Hawai‘i Republican Party is not the political force it was under her leadership, but from what I read and hear, better days are ahead.
I witnessed firsthand that as Governor for two full terms, Linda Lingle never placed party goals and objectives over what was best for all the people of Hawai‘i. She publicly stated on day one in December 2002 that she would make this her mantra and she continued putting people first through the end of her term in December 2010.
I have also observed her ability to hear all sides of an issue, ask the right questions and make tough decisions. I have seen her courage and compassion when not in the public eye.
These past eight years have been especially tough on our military and their families based in Hawai‘i. Our active duty, National Guard, and Reserve forces have continually deployed for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have also witnessed firsthand the devastation and anguish families face when notified that their loved ones would not be coming back.
Governor Lingle and I have gone together to console grieving families, provide words of comfort and yes, cried with them. She did not need to do this. She was responsible only for the Hawaii National Guard, but she felt that the military troops based in Hawai‘i were just as much a part of our own ‘ohana.
Especially tough was the visit with families of our Kaneohe Marines where 26 perished in a helicopter crash caused by a sandstorm. These brave Marines had just survived the difficult battle for Fallujah, Iraq. Another emotional time was visiting with the families of the SEAL team based at Pearl Harbor, killed during Operation Redwing in the mountains of Afghanistan. Reflecting back, all the visits with families were tough. Yet each time, Linda Lingle had a sincere way of conveying the gratitude of our State and Nation during a time most difficult for families to comprehend.
That is why I am honored and humbled to answer Linda Lingle’s call to serve as her campaign manager in her run for the U.S. Senate. I consider it a privilege to serve in this role because I know that Linda Lingle is the right choice for Hawai‘i and for America.
I will also be backing another warrior in her campaign for Congress-Tammy Duckworth. I got to know her in Iraq as she worked with our CH-47 Heavy Lift unit. I got to know Tammy even better as she recovered from her horrific wounds at Walter Reed Hospital when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down. I have seen her personal courage as she learned to walk on new legs, and then run on the treadmill at Walter Reed Hospital. She is driven to continue her service to America and not focus on her serious wounds and injuries. Tammy is running as a Democrat in Illinois’ Eighth District.
In a campaign leading up to an election, normally candidates try to convince voters to select them in the voting booth because they have political experience and a long list of accomplishments.
I view candidates from a different perspective.
The first is the way they act away from the cameras. Are they the same person? Do they play to the crowd and say publicly what is expedient but act differently when the cameras are turned off?
The second is how they will address the future unknown challenges and crises that our Nation will face. Will our elected officials have the courage to make the right decisions – and stand by their convictions without worrying about political consequences?
I have no doubt that Governor Linda Lingle and Tammy Duckworth will stand by their convictions every day and represent all the people of Hawai‘i and Illinois, respectively.
To my fellow citizens, this is not the time to be on the sidelines. America needs you to vote as we face so many critical issues. I am all in for these two ladies and trust you will join me.
Robert G.F. Lee is a Major General in the U.S. Army (Retired)