LIHU‘E — The evidence of going home was electric in the gathering of Hawai‘i National Guard troops at a nondescript gate at the Lihu‘e Airport, Tuesday morning.
“I got to work with them at the Lihu‘e Airport checkpoint,” said Kaua‘i Police Department sergeant Darla Nonaka. “We got to know them, they got to know us — we made a lot of new friends. We had to come and aloha them as they go home.”
Nonaka’s sentiments were shared by the host of dignitaries, including Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency director Elton Ushio, Rep. James Tokioka, and others that watched the C-17 cargo plane touch down at Lihu‘e Airport to transport the troops home.
The anticipation of going home was spread among the four dozen troops, one catching a glimpse of the approaching cargo plane that earlier made stops on the Big Island, then Maui, before touching down for its cargo of O‘ahu-bound troops, some of whom have been deployed for duty on Kaua‘i from as early as March when the novel coronavirus appeared on Hawai‘i’s shores.
Feelings mounted as the going home was delayed a day after the plane developed mechanical problems leading to the postponement of the departure by a day.
Housed in “temporary quarters,” the Hawai‘i National Guard worked alongside local government agencies to help prevent the spread of the new virus within the community, performing a variety of tasks that ranged from manning the Lihu‘e Airport checkpoint, contact tracing, to helping with the Kaua‘i Police Department in policing the myriad of rules, mandates, and guidelines established because of COVID-19.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.