By Amy L. Bugala, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsJuly 12, 2010
HONOLULU - Soldiers from Schofield Barrack's Warrior Transition Battalion were honored during Iolani School's 22nd Annual Independence Day Parade at Kozuki Stadium, here, July 2.
Grand marshal Capt. Katie Kalama, commander, Company B, WTB, Tripler Army Medical Center, along with Staff Sgt. Billy Joe Guyton and Staff Sgt. Robert Aiwohi, led the star-spangled procession in a decorated golf cart through the stadium filled with students, parents, teachers and friends.
More than 700 kindergarten through fifth-grade students dressed in an array of red, white and blue apparel followed the Soldiers parading around the school track wearing homemade hats and star-shaped paper lei. The students waved flags and streamers and held signs that read, "We Salute You. Mahalo."
Preparing for the parade is a part of the summer curriculum, said JoAnn Stepien, director of Iolani's Lower School Summer Program. The parade teaches students that the Fourth of July is about more than just fireworks.
"The parade celebrates our nation's birthday and honors all those that allow us to live in freedom, sleep in peace, and even go to the school of our choice," Stepien said.
"It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to come do this," said Guyton, who was accompanied by his wife, Latonya, and three children, Brianna, 12; Leighanna, 7; and Braylon, 4. "Being a Soldier is my duty, so the enemy doesn't bring the fight here. It's my duty to fight for my family and all of America's families."
After a patriotic program by the students, Keene Tanaka, 11, who was dressed as Uncle Sam, asked everyone to observe a moment of silence for all fallen warriors and then introduced Kalama.
During her remarks to the young crowd, Kalama explained what the Warrior Transition Battalion is and how the children can support injured Soldiers.
"When you see a Soldier in uniform, give them a smile, and they will know you care," she said.
Kalama, an Army helicopter pilot who was deployed to Iraq, told the crowd how it felt to be away from her sons, Mikala, 7, and Coda, 3.
"We could feel your hugs from across the ocean and knew that with your support, there was nothing that could stand in our way," she said.
The students presented lei, hand-painted pillows, a patriotic lamp and original poems to the Soldiers, thanking them for proudly representing the red, white and blue.
Aiwohi, a military police officer with the Hawaii National Guard who is recovering from a knee injury, was overwhelmed by the display of gratitude from the students and families.
"I am speechless," Aiwohi said, as students clamored around him after the program. "I am from Hawaii, and I never remember anything like this when I was growing up."
Aiwohi shook hands and gave a few high-fives and hugs while parents and teachers leaned over children's heads to say, "mahalo," "get better soon" and "thanks for your service."
"(Today) makes me remember why I am serving," he said.
"I am honored to have represented the Army and the WTB, and to show kids that Soldiers come in all shapes and sizes," said Kalama.
An impressed young girl added, "And woman, too!"
Special guests also honored during the program included World War II veterans from the segregated Japanese-American 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
View additional photos of this event on Flickr.
To learn more about warrior care, visit www.army.mil/warriorcare.