Hawaii's Last Line of Aloha for Troops

Elaine Ota
Elaine Ota

March 2, 2007 5:35 PM

By Marvin Buenconsejo

HICKAM AFB (KHNL) - When it comes to military deployments out of Hawaii, volunteers at U.S.O. Hawaii could be called the "Last Line of Aloha."

They pride themselves in always saying "goodbye" to troops heading to war.

Any time.

Any base.

Women at Hawaii's U.S.O. headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base prepare to hand deliver care packages to the latest batch of troops heading to the middle east.

A number of soldiers and marines have their spouses and children with them on Oahu.

But the majority serve here, alone.

''I've sent out about 20,000," says U.S.O. volunteer coordinator, Elaine Ota. "They come and go. Marines go every six months, they come home every six months. I¹m pretty close to all of them."

U. S. O. stands for United Services Organization.

It¹s been around since World War II.

But, it didn¹t take root in Hawaii, until 1970.

And now that Hawaii-based marines and soldiers are sent to fight in the middle east on a regular bases, the U.S.O. is needed now, more than ever.

''When the troops come through here, they meet with the USO, the get to shake hands, they get a warm greeting," says U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Murphey. "And when they walk to airplane, that's the difference. You see their faces as they're getting on the airplane, they know they've been touched by somebody, and that's the folks here at the USO."

"I love it. I go out two o'clock in the morning, take my husband¹s gray truck and got down to Schofield, Barber¹s Point, anywhere just to do it. Oh my God, how can I begin to tell you. It¹s just awesome. Makes me want to cry."

Ota has volunteered for the past four years.

She now leads the charge.

"This is going to continue on. For me, my heart is here," says Ota.

Here, waiting for her Hawaii troops to return home.