On Kaua’i for hearings, Akaka lauds Patriots

LIHU’E — Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai’i, is on Kaua’i to usher in the first of four Congressional hearings on the state of Veterans Affairs here.

That first hearing set for today in Lihu’e will be attended by Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs chairman Larry Craig, R- Idaho, as well.

Before the more heady events of Monday began though, Akaka took time Sunday to recognize some local heroes from Kaua’i.

“The Lihu’e Patriots winning the Pop Warner national title sends a message to the rest of the country that athletes here in Hawai’i can rise to this level … can rise to the top,” Akaka said shortly before he read a document to the assembled team and parents that was entered into the Congressional record.

The Lihu’e Patriots Pee Wee and their parents and supporting entourage gathered at the Lihu’e Neighborhood Center Sunday afternoon with the team sporting jerseys, the parents, broad smiles.

“I had to tear him away from his X-Box to come here,” said father Jason Iwata, about his son Shane, 11, an offensive guard and defensive nose guard on the Patriots. “I tried to explain to him that this is a big deal, that this is something big for Hawai’i.”

Iwata wasn’t sure it had sunk in yet with his son — the magnitude of what the team had done.

“This is just another party to me,” said 10-year-old Isaiah Prunty, about the Senator’s presence and reading of the congratulatory Congressional record document. “We went through a lot of work to win the championship and there have been a lot of parties since then.”

The team clinched the title on Dec. 7 by beating the Hollister Vikings of San Jose, Calif. in Orlando, Florida. The final score was 14-0. “I read about their (Patriots) feats as they won the Hawaiian regional games and then started to play mainland teams,” Akaka said. “You never know how they are going to fare when they play mainland teams but then every time they would win another one I would think, ‘Hey this (the championship) is possible.”

And possible it was as the Patriots proved.

“It was the first time in my life that anything like this happened,” said Isaiah. “It was really exciting.”

Coach Mario Longboy said the kids are still “on that cloud” from winning the national title. “I’m very excited for the kids,” Longboy said.

“It’s nice to be recognized by an important politician like this. For him (Akaka) to get word of this and then come down and give his time is great.”

Akaka said the boys of the Patriots have set the pace for the coming generations. “This raises the standard for athletes in Hawai’i,” Akaka said. “Boys, you started it, and it is now in motion and I wish you well,” he said.

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