BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Award Winning Country Music Singer Lee Greenwood wowed fans at a Hawaii Republican Party fundraising concert on Wednesday night.
The singer, best known for his number one hit, God Bless the USA, was already in Hawaii for a concert and offered to help local Republicans raise money through a separate event.
Party leaders, who have been cash strapped, jumped at the chance to enlist Greenwood to bring in major dollars to help them pay off the mortgage for the Oahu headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard. They hoped to raise $500,000 with this event.
Around 500 people paid at least $150 per ticket, and some paid as much as $2,500 to $5,000 in sponsorships, to attend the dinner and concert held at the stunning Koolau Ballrooms set in between the Koolau mountains and a golf course in Kaneohe.
Hawaii’s most well known Republicans were there, including former Gov. Linda Lingle, former Lt. Gov. James ‘Duke’ Aiona, Captain Gerald Coffee and his wife, Susan Page, House members Barbara Marumoto, Gil Rivere, and Cynthia Thielen, Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, former Congresswoman Pat Saiki, and former Congressman Charles Djou. Several former members of the Lingle/Aiona cabinet including former Attorney General Mark Bennett and Department of Accounting and General Services Director Russ Saito and several former lawmakers also were in attendance.
Ret. Major General Robert Lee, who served under Lingle as the head of the National Guard, was the emcee for the program. The General, who called himself “just an old soldier who finally retired,” shared a number of stories about Hawaii’s heroic military personnel and introduced some key members of the armed forces who were present.
He also recognized six World War II veterans from Hawaii’s famous 100th, 442nd brigade, including Robert Arakaki, 100th Baker Chapter; Isao Takiyama, 442d L Co; Paul Watanabe, 442d, Engineer; Kenneth Higa, 100th B, Charlie Co.; Ed Ikuma, 100th, HQ; and Ricky Tsuda, 100th B, Baker Co.
Lee announced that the entire 100th, 442d will receive the congressional gold medal in Washington DC in October. The Speaker of the House and President Barack Obama will present the award.
Greenwood, who was gracious to all the guests, took the opportunity to take photos with all who requested one, and he went table to table to personally thank the veterans in the room. The majority of the event was spent honoring America’s armed forces.
Lingle, who served as governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010, introduced Greenwood. She admitted that she is a “huge” country music fan and listens to 97.5, Hawaii’s country music station, most of the time.
Leading up to Greenwood’s concert, Captain Gerry Coffee, one of America’s most famous prisoners of war during the Vietnam era, gave a brief speech acknowledging the sacrifices of America’s men and women serving in the military and remembering America’s POWs.
Coffee, an inspirational speaker who authored the book Beyond Survival, has worked with Greenwood in the past.
Lee also has a connection to Coffee that he shared with the audience and Coffee for the first time. At the end of the Vietnam war when Lee’s division returned to Hawaii to much animosity against soldiers who served their country, Coffee gave a speech to Lee and his fellow soldiers that Lee said inspired him to remain in the military.
Greenwood shared with the audience many stories about how he met his wife, their life together for the last 19 years, and their two boys, ages 14 and 16. He also spoke more about his number one hit, God Bless the USA, and how he came to write the song in 1983 on the back of a tour bus.
Like Coffee, Greenwood has authored his own book, Does God Still Bless the USA? The book, which is edited by his wife, a singer and beauty queen, will be released this Fall.
Greenwood, a Republican Christian conservative, did not speak about politics throughout the concert but ended the evening with some personal notes. He said that Hawaii needs more Republican leadership, including a Republican governor, and the nation needs a Republican president.