Floor remarks by state Representative K. Mark Takai on HCR29 on January 31, 2014, which established the Medal of Honor ceremony this year, to be held March 25, 2014.
Over 12 years ago, the attack in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania brought our nation to our knees. Each of us can recall vividly the events in the early morning on September 11, 2001. What happened on that fateful day would shake the foundation of our country and would instantly change the future for our children.
As a newly commissioned officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard, I knew that my life would forever be changed on that day. The question was no longer if we would go, but when we would go. So when the 29th Brigade Combat Team and the 100 BN were deployed in 2004 for the first time since the Vietnam War, we needed to do something. And we did.
I recall when I returned from deployment thinking how we as a state and the Hawaii State Legislature needed to support the families of our fallen heroes. A grateful state best honors and remembers the sacrifices of those who have served our nation by living our lives in deepest appreciation of our freedom. That is what they defended and that is what they fought and died for.
Ten years ago, in 2005, this Legislature passed Act 21, establishing the Hawaii Medal of Honor. This Hawaii Medal of Honor was our way of expressing our deepest appreciation to these brave service men and women. We offer this honor as a small token that can never in itself repay the honor that has been given to us. An honor borne of courage, driven by duty, and paid for in loss.
Mr. Speaker, since the Wars on Terrorism began and between March 29, 2003 and January 10, 2014, we in Hawaii have lost 331 service members. Four will be honored at this year’s ceremony.
I wanted to spend some time talking about the men who we will be recognizing shortly:
United States Army Sergeant Tofiga Tautolo was 23. He was born in Pago Pago, America Samoa and raised in Waianae. It was said when Sergeant Tofiga joined the Army in 2010, he was noticed immediately for his unique ability to balance his leadership role while maintaining a healthy, low keyed sense of humor to keep his soldiers relaxed but ready for battle. It was also known that his biggest passion was being a husband and a father to his son.
United States Air Force Captain Reid Nishizuka was 30 years old and from Kailua. Joining the military in 2005, he completed multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan before his most recent tour. Known as a man of character, honor and aloha, his colleagues said he always challenged those around him to do their best, yet could put it all into perspective when you were feeling overwhelmed. He was a loving and caring person that brought joy to those around him.
United States Army Sergeant Drew Scobie was 25; also from Kailua. He is the first Hawaii National Guard loss in Afghanistan. There were three other Guard members from Hawaii who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sergeant Scobie is remembered as a loving father, husband, son, grandson, brother, friend and hero who loved his family deeply and proudly and heroically carries the Aloha spirit wherever he went to defend our country.
United States Army Sergeant Edward Balli was 42 and was from Kapolei. He was on his third deployment to Afghanistan and had gone on two tour to Iraq. Fellow soldiers described him as an outstanding leader of soldiers and a person with a kind heart and smile that aimed to please those who he worked for and with.
By this concurrent resolution, Mr. Speaker, this year’s Hawaii Medal of Honor will be awarded to family representatives of these fine men at a ceremony held during a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 2 p.m. in the House Chambers.
Words are not enough to express the loss of these young men who died serving our country and for this reason, we honor the family, friends and colleagues of the fallen who have sacrificed, who have themselves paid a price, and who helped make this year’s honorees the brave, strong individuals that we called on and counted on to serve our nation.
I urge passage of House Concurrent Resolution 29. Thank you. Mr. Speaker.
2014 HAWAII MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
United States Army Sergeant Tofiga J. Tautolo
United States Air Force Captain Reid K. Nishizuka
United States Army Sergeant Drew M. Scobie
United States Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edward Balli