LIHUE — Laura Cristobal Andersland wondered what the excitement was about Thursday night at the Lihue Airport.
“Is the mayor coming in?” said Andserland, who was returning from her Hawaii on the Hill tour that extended to food shows in New York. “I see Kaleo Carvalho, the Mayor’s Protocol Officer, so I thought he was coming back from somewhere.”
Andersland was surprised and thrilled to discover the excitement was not for the mayor, but for SSG Jerry Cortinas and his family, including wife Celina and daughters Dion and Ally who were arriving for a Vacations for Warriors stay on Kauai.
She rubbed the chicken skin, noting, “My husband David is a veteran. Salty Wahine Gourmet Salt always remember the veterans when they come to visit the shop in Hanapepe. We don’t just thank Wounded Warriors for their sacrifices, we live Wounded Warrior every day.”
The Cortinas family is the fifth Wounded Warrior family to visit Kauai this year, said Lynn Aylward-Bingham, a Vacations for Warriors coordinator.
“I was stationed on Oahu,” Cortinas said. “But I never got a chance to see any of the Neighbor Islands. This is the first time I’m getting to know Kauai.”
Staying in Princeville, Cortinas said the family will be here until July 12 when they leave for a stay on Maui before returning to their Brownville, Texas home.
Cortinas served with the 25th INF Division at Schofield Barracks, Wahiawa for three years before becoming a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces for six years.
While deployed with his Special Forces group in Afghanistan, Cortinas was injured in 2002 while firing a rocket-propelled grenade.
The weapon malfunctioned and the grenade exploded inside the barrel instead of propelling out, Cortinas losing his left hand above the wrist and his right hand having minimal function.
His face was blown open and required numerous surgeries. Another surgery addressed the large wound on his chest. He spent months at the Walter Reed Medical Center and is rated 100 percent by the Veterans Administration.
He also suffered traumatic brain injury to the back of his head and lives with PTSD.
He can no longer work, and longs for the days when he fought for his country.
Cortinas said he is excited about the surfing lessons with the Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience Saturday before having dinner at the Oasis restaurant.
“Beach, beach, and more beach,” Cortinas said. “And, we’ll take some time out for eating. That’s all I’m looking forward to.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.