As they watch combat scenes in the U.S. and British-led war against Iraq unfold on nightly newscasts, the children of Sherry Cacal of Anahola fret about the safety of their brother, Junicio Cacal Jr.
He is a Waimea High School graduate and is now a U.S. airman stationed either in Iraq or Kuwait.
The Cacal clan knows Junicio and 250,000 U.S. troops have been put in harm’s way, a realization that makes them understand better the gravity of the war, said Sherry Cacal, who is Junicio’s stepmother. “They are defending our freedom, our way of life,” she said.
Junicio and his wife, Julie Anne, are believed to be Kaua’i’s only married couple serving in the second Gulf War.
The couple joins more than 50 Kaua’i residents in the military who are fighting or serving in support roles in the conflict.
Junicio, 30, and his 20-year-old wife, who is originally from the Mainland, met while stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. They were married there last year.
Cacal said her daughter-in-law shipped out to Kuwait during Christmas and Junicio shipped out in February.
“The Air Force told us that they are somewhere in Kuwait; we don’t know where,” Cacal said. “They aren’t together. They are at different air force installations. That is what I understand.”
Before Junicio left for the Middle East, he called his family from the California Air Force base, and expressed apprehension about going overseas, but quickly stifled them, Cacal said.
“He said he is ready to do whatever is expected of him,” she said. “He said he intends to come back to America.”
The call in February was the last talk the Cacal family had with Junicio before his deployment, Cacal said.
Her stepson, who has not returned to Kaua’i in five years, wanted to come home to visit his family this year, but that plan was scrubbed as Middle East tensions became strained and the call for war was on the horizon, Cacal said.
“Of course, we worry about him,” she said, “But we know he has a job to do. And we hope he will come home safely.”
Cacal said her stepson is “patriotic” and is ready to protect freedom with his life if necessary. “He is willing to make that sacrifice, if he has to,” she said.
Junicio also joined the military on the advice of his father, 52-year-old Junicio Cacal Sr. an employee with the Princeville Community Association and a part-time painter, Cacal said.
Cacal Sr. didn’t serve in the military but has brothers who had served in the armed forces, Cacal said.
“Junicio loves the military, and joining the service offered him a change from Kaua’i,” she said. “His father encouraged him to go into the service and go see the world.”
Junicio and his wife seem to like the military life and could make the military their careers, Cacal said.
Sherry Cacal said she came into her stepson’s life when he was a student at Kekaha Elementary School. Junicio later attended Waimea Canyon School and Waimea High School. Junicio grew up on the Westside before joining the service.
Sports was a major part of Junicio’s young life, and he played football and baseball at Waimea High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Junicio excelled as a running back in the football program and played shortstop during the baseball season before graduating from high school.
Subsequently, he played baseball for a junior college in Las Vegas and then joined the service, his stepmother said. Junicio, she said, currently plays on Air Force baseball teams. With so many combatants involved in the war, it is not likely they will see their brother on any newscasts, Cacal said.
But her children watch, nonetheless, because doing so allows them to keep in touch with him spiritually, Cacal said. “I am so proud of him, because he is out there defending our country, democracy.”
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org