Troops taking Kaua‘i-style grinds to Iraq

A word of advice to the managers of the commissary at Fort Polk, La.: stock up on rice and rice cookers.

After the Kaua‘i men and women of the Hawaii Army National Guard’s Company A, 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry Regiment bought all of the rice and rice cookers in sight at the commissary at Fort Bliss, Texas, when they were stationed there last year, those who got there too late now may have their sights set on the company’s next stop, Fort Polk, La., before the 100-plus Kaua‘i contingent deploys for Iraq for what may be one or two years in the war zone.

The men and women got a huge boost in terms of getting their hands on “non-provisioned items,” or the things the U.S. Army doesn’t provide to them (like rice, rice cookers, patis [Filipino fish sauce], Spam, Vienna sausage, shoyu, musubi, and other local foods), when the Friends of Company A held a fund-raiser at the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club on Kalapaki Beach late last month.

Even with donations still coming in, the fund-raiser, which included dinner and a silent auction, live entertainment, and much more, netted $5,000 in “clear profit,” said Queenie Pezario, one of the lead Friends of Company A.

“Everything else they need, we’ll provide,” Pezario said. Donations of clothing are not needed nor will they be accepted, as the men and women have enough clothes, she said.

There is the potential that Peter Yukimura, owner and operator of Koa Trading Company, and his workers, might be donated many pounds of rice to the cause, she said.

At the Lihu‘e Airport when the men and women left New Year’s Eve for Texas, then Louisiana, then Kuwait and eventually Iraq, family members were given special clearances to be able to go with citizen-soldiers to the boarding gates that normally are reserved only for ticketed passengers and airport and airline staff due to heightened security.

The Garden Island reporters and photographers were also unable to gain access to the boarding gates, as were active and retired military personnel who wanted to say their good-byes in the holding rooms.

The level of anticipated participation remains heightened as well. Col. Theodore “Teddy” Daligdig III, recently retired from the U.S. Army, really wants to go to Iraq with the Kaua‘i men and women, but so far hasn’t gotten the call.

Sgt. Pacifico “Pat” Quel, who worked with and trained many of the men and women of the Kaua‘i guard who are bound for Iraq, also was denied the ability to accompany his men and women into combat.

Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or pcurtis@pulitzer.net.

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