FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - The Oli is asking permission, to enter and to perform the Ha'a Koa, the Hawaiian bent-knee dance of warriors. Members of the Kanaka Oiwi, a group of traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners, gave the Oli and stood in the center of the U.S. Army promotion, performing a ceremony of their own, the Ha'a Koa, blessing the place of warriors, known today as Palm Circle, blessing the Army Reserve Soldier about to be promoted, and his ability to gather the chiefs, as a long bloodline of warriors before him had as well.
One family has been a part of the warrior legacy of Palm Circle for generations, from pre-contact lush Moanalua Valley forest to World War I dusty training grounds where the first Hawaiian Regiment enlisted, to a modern day grassy field used frequently by today's U.S. Army for official ceremonies.
"My grandfather enlisted here, as part of the draft in World War I, at the request of Queen Lilioukalani, and his first cousin, Henry Ka'ahanui Sr. also here at Palm Circle back in 1918, further to World War II, his son Henry junior enlisted here at Palm Circle," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Ka'ahanui, a U.S. Army Reserve noncommissioned officer, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, whose promotion ceremony was a gathering of family, military family and history, Dec. 8.
"Three generations of Ka'ahanui, World War I, World War II and the Global War on Terror, it is humbling to be promoted here in the same place," he said.
Ka'ahanui, being an Army Reserve Soldier, also works full time as a civilian law enforcement officer at Marine Corps Base Camp Smith, HI. In English, his name translates to "gathering of the chiefs," and true to the meaning of the name, his promotion brought Marines, Soldiers and Hawaiian family together where the promotion and Palm Circle itself were given an official blessing.
"There is deep history in this area, which is (geographically) the Moanalua Valley, what was shared to me is it was training grounds for the arts of Hula, celebration of life, for the arts of Lua, warfare, for the arts of medicine, and Moanalua was a key place for training," said Kupa Aina Nu'uanu Lenchanko, who participated in the ceremony.
Officiating the ceremony was Col. Rodriguez, commander 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade.
"He's a fine Soldier, he's a good man, his Marine buddies are here and he is one of the most sought after medics/civil affairs NCOs we have in the Army Reserve," Rodriguez said. "He is an all around outstanding Soldier and an outstanding man. He's blessed that he has his two boys here today."
Ka'ahanui's two sons Kolomana and Ku'ikaika Ka'ahanui pinned the rank on him together, just as one hundred years before in the same place, their great grandfather held his hand up and swore into the U.S. Army. At the end of the promotion, Kolomana gave the Pule, a Hawaiian blessing completing the ceremony.
"My uncle told me one day that, whatever you do in your life, never compromise your integrity," Ka'ahanui said. "In the Army, I am able to practice that. It's made me a better NCO. This rank is not about me, it's about building a better Army."
"I've been fortunate enough to go to Thailand two years in a row, to go to Iraq and Afghanistan as a medic, but I wouldn't be the man I am without my two sons," said Ka'ahanui. "The biggest title I have is being a Dad."
Generations of warriors, from ancient to modern, the Ka'ahanui Ohana and the U.S. Army Family continue to grow the strength of family, manifested through legacy of the service of warriors.