Someone said there is only one type of commitment. Total. It’s a concept that’s applied to life’s endless situations or circumstances.
Many will argue that commitment is a character element absent in people these days. An example could be one choosing not to veer off their trajectory for the greater good. That’s recognizable. For first-term Congressman Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), it’s the converse. Commitment is real. It’s a part of day-to-day living.
Kahele left the campaign trail last year to battle the COVID-19 pandemic with the National Guard.
“To help the state of Hawaii. To bring all the skills and the experience I had to that air mobility COVID-19 operation that delivered supplies and equipment and eventually vaccines and PPEs all across the state,” he Kahele said.
The native Hawaiian is a member of the Air National Guard who commissioned in 2001 and pledged to serve his community, state and country when he signed up. That commitment is like an attaché case cuffed to his wrist.
Kahele initially joined the Guard in 1999 and completed a year of Air Force pilot training in Mississippi in 2001. Ultimately, he was selected to fly F-15s by the Hawaii National Guard.
“So for me, for all of about eight or nine months of my military career as a commissioned officer … we’ve been a nation at war for 19 years of my military career,” he said.
Kahele soon found himself deployed to Afghanistan. His commission hit warp-speed pace, as he became an aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot leading multiple C-17 missions into combat.
In 2016, he was elected to the Hawaii Senate and currently serves in the Air National Guard out of Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu.
This former University of Hawaii volleyball player brings a unique perspective to the District of Columbia – his military service.
“I’ve always been somebody who’s wanted to be … boots on the ground, walking with the soldiers and the airmen,” he said. “And I think that’s the only way you really understand what the reality is like for those soldiers, those airmen, their children, their husbands, their wives, their families that they leave to answer the call.”
Kahele said fighting the war on terrorism comprised a demanding amount of logistics and flying. It required professional military education and high-level critical thinking. It also included the responsibility for a flight crew and payload. He said he feels the experience has served him well in his political career and sets him apart from his Congressional brethren.
“Those are things that I look back on that not just help me today in my current role in the Congress, but also to continue to me as a military officer in the Guard,” he said.
Only the second native Hawaiian to represent his state in Congress, Kahele said his motivation to become a U.S. lawmaker stems from his desire to be a young voice for the people of Hawaii, specifically its native-Hawaiian population.
“I firmly believe that the state of Hawaii should have one member of the Congressional delegation that is of native Hawaiian ancestry because there are many issues that exist today between the federal government and the native Hawaiian indigenous community that’s still gone unresolved,” he said.
Hawaii has two histories: the textbook one and the one that reflects the continuing issues between the federal government and the indigenous population, Kahele said.
“That’s the Hawaii that I represent, and I think it’s one that has lacked that perspective and leadership for quite some time.”
Performing his job via commitment and dedication is a defining characteristic that is very apparent.
“Serve before self was something that was always instilled in me,” he said. “Serving community and serving those less fortunate was always something that my dad — a U.S. Marine — instilled in myself and my brothers and sisters as young kids. Be a voice for the voiceless, helping those less fortunate.”Read comments