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Warriors celebrated on Armed Forces Day

KEALIA — Nine Kapa‘a High School students are among the newest enlisted personnel with the armed services, and five of the nine were celebrated Saturday — National Armed Forces Day — at a picnic at Kealia Park.

“Graduation is Friday,” said Jim Rosa, father of Michael Rosa, one of the students going into the armed forces immediately following graduating from high school. “The earliest of the group leaves within a few weeks from Friday. No one knows when we’ll see them, or when they’ll be back. We need to bless and honor them now.”

Michael Rosa, enlisting in the U.S. Army as a calvary scout, is joined by fellow Kapa‘a graduates Kevin Dolino, heading to the U.S. Marines, Alexander Koerte, also heading to the Marines, Ryan Laborte, Samuel Keopuhiwa, Julie Ann Castro, Kyla Bautista, Michael Amoyo and Earl Dwayne Martin.

“This was supposed to be for Michael,” said Sgt. Ian Versammy, an instructor in the Kapa‘a High School Junior ROTC program. “This is one of the good traits. Michael is always thinking about the other guy, and tonight we have five of the students celebrating.”

All of the students are products of the Junior ROTC program.

Versammy said the family nature of Junior ROTC is demonstrated with Keopuhiwa, who joined the Hawai‘i National Guard so he can serve at home.

“Stay in contact with your friends,” said Keopuhiwa, who graduated with the Class of 2020. “We didn’t have anything because of the pandemic. One day, I turned around, and there was no one to talk to. Stay in contact with your friends because you’ll never know when they’ll go.”

Kapa‘a High School Junior ROTC lead Lt. Col. Smith said this is a big deal.

“My dad was a 23-year veteran, and it was not a big thing for him,” Smith said. “But my mom cried and cried. It was a big deal for her, not knowing when I was coming back. And when I had thoughts about changing my mind, it was my dad who said I needed to live up to my commitment.”

Michael Rosa said he has no regrets about leaving Kaua‘i.

“I learned to be confident in myself,” he said. “I have no regrets in leaving because I am confident in myself.”

Started in 1950, Armed Forces Day is in the middle of Military Appreciation Month, and falls on the third Saturday of May. It was created to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard — following the consolidation of the military services in the U.S. Department of Defense.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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