WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Mckinley High School graduate Tammy Duckworth returns home to for the big Memorial Day ceremony at Punchbowl Sunday.
Her two day trip back to Oahu is all work and little play. But the assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs says she's glad to be back amongst her Ohana and many friends.
Duckworth is a long ways away from her days at Mckinley High School and University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"When you're with your friends from back then, you're just friends, you go out and you hang out and go to Zippy's or where ever and kick back," she said.
But she still remembers the places and faces that remember her.
"It's ohana here, I see people and my staff that travel with me, they always say, wow, people in Hawaii, just come up to hug you , because it's family here," she said.
After moving away from her family to join the military, Duckworth found much success beyond the Aloha State.
"It was very moving, it's about being a part of this change and I'm thrilled to be part of the Obama administration now and as I get to work for two locals, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki and it's a really exciting time," she said.
Her new job as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs has a personal connection to her.
Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran whose severe combat wounds cost her both of her legs and damaged her right arm.
Memorial Day weekend means a lot her, as it would to veterans across the country.
"So often we think of Memorial Day weekend as Memorial Day sales, Memorial Day long weekend, time to go camping, time to go beach, that's fine, I think my buddies who didn't make it home would want us to enjoy a nice long weekend, but it's also a day tomorrow (Sunday) for us to take the time and think about the people who laid down their lives so we could be free," she said.
Free to do the things like visiting family and friends she hasn't seen in awhile.
"It's always good to be back, I miss the islands and every time I come back, we were just talking, I go to Zippy's and all my local places, you just take a deep breath every time you're back on the islands," she said.
A place she hasn't ruled out just yet to come back and live.
"Maybe someday when I win the lottery, I can afford to buy a house here, yeah," she said.