Kaua’i troops head home this month

The Kaua’i members of the Hawaii Army National Guard, some of whom missed the births, birthdays, graduations and other landmark dates of their children and other loved ones because of their 18-month deployment, are coming home from Iraq this month.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, they will be back in Hawai’i in the middle of this month, and back to Kaua’i in late January or early February, said Maj. Charles Anthony, Hawaii Army National Guard public affairs officer.

There are around 100 Kaua’i citizen-soldiers currently deployed in Iraq who are down to just a few days left in the war zone.

With the Neighbor Island citizen-soldiers, the idea is to demobilize them as quickly as possible, so they can get home, Anthony said. There is much paperwork to be completed, including some concerning pay, he explained.

The Kaua’i citizen-soldiers will be stationed at Schofield Barracks on O’ahu until they have turned in their weapons, completed medical clearances and other health screenings, as well as psychological assessments of those who witnessed soldiers or civilians either killed or wounded while they were there, Anthony added.

Essentially, every single citizen-soldier from Kaua’i witnessed either civilians or soldiers killed or wounded, said Staff Sgt. Barry DeBlake, who had to leave Iraq earlier than those under his command due to a back injury that will keep him confined to Schofield and Tripler Army Medical Hospital on O’ahu for some time.

When he spoke with The Garden Island while at home on Kaua’i with his family yesterday, he commended many of the Kaua’i citizen-soldiers for their valiant work in Iraq, including Spc. Kelly Capuano, a dental assistant and daughter of Meryl Momohara of Kapa’a and Melvin Momohara of Kalaheo.

DeBlake said some of the men and women under his command saw the war at its worst.

“These females from Kaua’i have gone above and beyond any call of duty. One female from Kaua’i held an Iraqi man’s head together that was blown open from a bullet, while he was transported to the hospital,” he said.

“Another Kaua’i female who is a medic helped countless soldiers and Iraqis,” said DeBlake, who admitted to having mixed emotions about being able to be home for the holidays with his family while having to leave behind in Iraq members of his other family — those under his command.

His wife, Duana DeBlake, arranged for members of the O’ahu Family Support Group to meet him when he arrived in Honolulu, and for Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and others to welcome him at Lihu’e Airport when he came home.

It could be four months to a year before Barry DeBlake will be able to return home and return to work, depending on whether or not surgery is necessary to repair his back, and the time it will take for rehabilitation.

DeBlake is with the 29th Support Battalion, 29th Brigade Combat Team, which includes the 299th Infantry, 487th Artillery division, and 100th Battalion and 4442nd Infantry.

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Calio, who is with the 487th and had been assigned to an area along the Kuwait-Iraq border, is home already, and is already back to work as a KPD police officer, DeBlake said.

Regarding the demobilization, Anthony explained that, while the men and women remain on active duty, some will be given the option of staying on active duty a bit longer, in order to receive professional military education (PME) that is required for them to get promoted and compete for these promotions with their peers.

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