WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For a second straight night, U.S. Army officials listened to hours of testimony in a community listening session on proposed base cutbacks. But this time, the community was Wahiawa, which has had a military presence for decades.
Politicians dominated the first portion of Tuesday night's listening session in Waikiki, but this time, the community was quickly given the chance to sound off on the Army's possible plans to cut 16,000 positions at Schofield Barracks and 3,800 at Fort Shafter.
Many of those who spoke at the packed meeting at Leilehua High School pointed to the close ties between Wahiawa and Schofield.
"The military is not the military. The military now is our ohana. They are our family," said Wahiawa Middle School teacher Karen Leilani Paty. The comment drew loud applause from the audience.
Others talked about how the military is important part of the economy, and especially how the local economy would be devastated with the cuts.
"You guys drop out, we're not going to have a couple billion dollars drop out of the sky to keep food in our mouths," said one man. "It's really, really, really gonna hurt."
There were some who supported the cuts, with one woman saying that losing thousands of people would help reduce the strain on a heavily populated island. "I would welcome 20 to 40,000 fewer cars on our highways."
There were also some Native Hawaiians who voiced their displeasure with U.S. military presence in the islands.
"I don't want you here! Hey! Beat it!" said one young man, whose profanity-laced comments brought disapproval from the crowd.
"Why don't you take the Army, Air Force, Navy, all the military bases, and please get out of here and stop the illegal occupation of Hawaii?" asked Raymond Arancon.
But one of the first of the dozens of speakers tried to persuade the officials that the military should stay.
"Any negative input that goes to you, it's not from the Wahiawa community, and it's not from the majority of Hawaii citizens," said Walter Benavitz.
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