Harrom Hookano Kaili
The value of a man’s service to his fellow man is even greater than the medals for heroism and bravery that he is accorded. Perhaps it is best measured by the fact that long after his efforts on the battlefield have been recognized, he voluntarily and on his own time continues to serve his fellow man by being their point of contact when they seek advice and assistance for the various ills and maladies that are an inevitable consequence of growing old. They say that old soldiers never die, they just fade away…or maybe they become Kiho`alu players….or maybe like Harrom Hookano Kaili, retired Master Sergeant US Army, they become that point of contact man. Harrom Kaili has been the man to whom many, many retired Hawaiian Islander soldiers have turned to over the years when they needed advice or assistance for injuries or illnesses that they think may be service connected. Harrom doesn’t know how he became the “point man” except that he has always been one to research and investigate and learn in detail about things that could impact him (and consequently other retired military men). Are you a retired military person? Got a problem like diabetes or diminishing hearing or eyesight which you think may be related to your time in the military? Want to know if the Veterans Department or the US Government can help you? Contact Harrom and if he doesn’t know the answer, he can tell you where to go for answers.
Who is this man? Harrom Hookano Kaili was born in Waimea, Kauai and raised in Kaluanui, a village that no longer exists. He remembers the good old days in Kaluanui when there was no electricity (thus no TV) and one got to school the old fashioned way (walking or riding horseback several miles to school and crossing a stream that occasionally flooded over which sometimes necessitated staying at a relative’s house until it was safe to cross that stream to return home). Harrom is an excellent Kiho`alu guitarist, a talent inherited from his ancestors (especially his step-Dad Joseph Kaili and uncle William Kualu who were Kiho`alu Masters) Harrom recalls the time when legendary Hawaiian musician Eddie Kamae went to Kauai to interview Joseph Kaili and William Kualu for the “Listen to the Forest” documentary Kamae was filming. Dennis Kamakahi, another legendary Hawaiian musician was also at the interview and Dennis was particularly moved when the “singing shells of Kauai ” were discussed. Harrom is a 1965 Waimea High School grad and played football in high school only after forging his mother’s signature on the permission to play slips. Besides the music and sports that he was involved with in his youth, Harrom grew up in a time when a family’s subsistence depended on the hunting and fishing skills of the family members. To this day, Harrom’s primary love is for his family but his passions are for Kiho’alu music, for spreading Hawaiian Aloha, for fishing but especially for hunting (he says “when the Fall season rolls around and there’s that coolness in the air, I pack my three German Wirehair dogs into my Jeep and head out to Eastern Washington or Idaho or North Dakota to do some hunting!”)
On September 26, 1969 twenty-two year old Staff Sergeant Harrom Kaili of the US Army’s 82d Airborne Division was awarded a Silver Star (the US Army’s third highest medal for valor) for his heroic efforts in rescuing two wounded soldiers while under intense enemy fire. On December 20, 1969, Staff Sergeant Harrom Kaili (this time with Hawaii’s own “Tropical Lightning” 25th Infantry Division) was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” (for valor) device (the US Army’s fourth highest award for valor) for his part in destroying an enemy patrol boat. Befitting his humble style, Sergeant Kaili states that “when I went to Vietnam, receiving awards of any kind was far from my mind. I went there to do a job and to return safely. I didn’t realize until much later the impact of each award I received.” Harrom Kaili believes that his successful actions in a hostile environment are attributable in great part to the skills (learning to use the five senses of sight/sound/smell/touch/taste) he learned from his Kupunas on Kauai when they were teaching him to hunt and fish! Sergeant Kaili retired from the US Army in May, 1988.
Harrom Kaili is a humble man who speaks softly but he has a charisma that makes others listen when he does speak. He is a role model who sets example by his actions. He is very actively engaged in “spreading Aloha” and he does it in so many different ways. Yes, he is indeed that gentleman with the salt and pepper hair in a pony tail playing Kiho`alu while hundreds listen at events like the Lokahi Ohana Ho`olaulea. Yes, he also is that guy helping kalua that pig you eat at various Luaus. Yes, he is also that guy washing dishes in the kitchen at 50th State Club gatherings. And yes, he is that guy answering the telephone when you call asking where you can go for assistance for illnesses you think may be related to your time in the service.
Harrom Hookano Kaili and his beautiful wife Haunani have been married for 35 years and reside in the Puyallup area. They have three daughters: Kanani and Liana were both born in Berlin, Germany while Nalani was born in Augusta, Georgia. Their son Kimo was born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
Mahalo Harrom Hookano Kaili for having put your life on the line for our country and Mahalo Harrom Hookano Kaili for continuing to serve your Hawaiian people in so many different ways. You da Man!!!!
Until next time, be kind to each other…me ke Aloha pumehana………Danny