Bikers’ ride a show of military appreciation

PUHI — Carol Sprowles’ day on the road took a different twist at Operation Military Appreciation in Puhi yesterday.

“I’m a nurse practitioner at the Veterans Administration Center,” she said. “I moved here from Kentucky and as part of my job, I’m on the road to visit and help those veterans who can’t come in to the center.”

In place of her normal mode of transportation, Sprowles opted for a 2005 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail painted in Black Cherry and joined more than 100 motorcycle enthusiasts on a convoy to Kekaha and back.

The ride kicked off the day-long event celebrating Kaua‘i’s active-duty service personnel and organized by the Sons of Hawai‘i Motorcycle Club and the Kaua‘i Harley-Davidson, which made arrangements to have military leaders aboard motorcycles for the morning trip.

Anna Kim, the merchandise manager for Kaua‘i Harley-Davidson, watched the convoy flow out onto Kaumuali‘i Highway.

“I’ve been here from the start, and we’ve had a few of these, but it’s always impressive,” Kim said after the last rumbling was swallowed up by the sounds of morning traffic resuming on the highway.

Staff Sgt. Earl Ventura was busy in a Hawai‘i Army National Guard tent where a steady stream of people stopped to examine the arsenal of weaponry on display. Ventura said he was part of the National Guard recruitment team and came from the Big Island “to help out.”

Proceeds from the second annual event are earmarked to help family readiness groups for the different military branches on-island.

Capt. Reginald Perry of the 299th Cavalry said the groups play an important role when soldiers are deployed overseas. In addition to being present to help spouses and families of the deployed personnel, Perry said they keep the lines of communication open between the soldier and their home.

Perry said he comes to Kaua‘i regularly to work with Charlie Troop, a contingent made up of National Guardsmen from Hanapepe and Kapa‘a.

“They were all deployed in August 2004 for 18 months in downtown Iraq,” Perry said.

On their return, some went back to Afghanistan and another group left to volunteer in the Philippines, Perry said.

During their deployment, Perry said the group demonstrated its ability to get along with the cultural diversity of its stations, and based on this, the group will probably be deployed again. Perry said some of them will be heading to Kuwait in a few months.

Military Operation Appreciation emphasized the importance of assistance groups. On Kaua‘i such organizations include Na Ohana Ki‘ai o Kaua‘i (the Air National Guard Family Readiness), Kaua‘i Navy Family Readiness, C-Troop 299th CAV RSTA (Kaua‘i Army National Guard Family Readiness) and the Kaua‘i Veterans Council.

In the presence of Charlie Troop, which stood in formation, an American flag flown at the Pacific Missile Range Facility was formally presented to Perry by Capt. Aaron Cudnohufsky to be flown at a site where the Kaua‘i troops would be deployed. That ceremony was capped by the firing of a 21-gun salute by the Kaua‘i Veterans Council Honor Guard as the flag was formally presented.

“When they presented the flag, there was tears in my eyes. I just couldn’t help it,” said Thomas Awong, a Sons of Hawai‘i member.

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