Fairness and "Charley Michael": Continue Mission (July 31, 2005)
Spending 10 days in my former hometown of Honolulu has naturally increased my awareness of news in Hawaii. One factor of national import has not been reported: the National Guard of Hawaii, drawn from one of the nation's smallest state populations, is providing a disproportionate share of the National Guard personnel serving "in theatre" in Iraq and Afganistan. Of approximately 150,000 U.S. troops in theatre, some 10,000 are Hawaii National Guard. (These numbers are from major media sources in Hawaii.) Of the some 50,000 National Guard serving in theatre, fully 20% are from Hawaii. How can this be a fair deployment?
Is the deployment of so many Hawaii National Guard fair? It's hard to see how it could be, given that Hawaii has just over a million residents in a nation of 300 million people. On a pro-rated basis, the Hawaii National Guard should have at most several hundred people serving on active duty, not 10,000.
Why this huge disparity? My own theory is that the military is well aware of Hawaii's long tradition of service and sacrifice. The tradition stretches back to the Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd in World War Two, whose unstinting courage and determination made the 442nd the most decorated unit of the U.S. Army. Much of the history of people in Hawaii from 1880 to the present has been one of immigration, and one truism of the immigrant experience is proving patriotism through military service. As a result of these traditions, Hawaii's people volunteer and serve in disproportionate numbers, and serve without complaint.
The Honolulu newspapers quite rightly refer to Hawaii National Guards personnel as citizen-soldiers, and their front-page stories of local soldiers quite rightly keep their service and sacrifice foremost in the minds of their readers. But maybe someone in Hawaii should question why one of the smallest states is providing one of the largest active National Guard contingents, and why the Hawaii National Guard is on duty in a "hot warzone" rather than replacing regular Army units serving in snoozeville billets like Germany or East Asia (Japan, Okinawa, etc.)
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