In 2020, the National Museum of the American Indian will honor Native American servicemen and women by building the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here, Specialist Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe (U.S. Army retired), a member of the memorial advisory committee, talks briefly about his experiences as a Native Hawaiian in the U.S. military.
From 2015 until the summer of 2017, the advisory committee and the museum conducted 35 community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial. These events brought together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members from across the nation, and resulted in a shared vision and set of design principles for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The design competition for the memorial is open until 3 p.m. Eastern time January 9. All information about the competition is available at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/memorial/.
Thank you for being a member of the advisory committee for the Veterans Memorial. May I ask you to introduce yourself and to give us your Native name and its English translation?
I’m Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe. My Hawaiian name is Kale‘iolani. It means hawk (‘io) from the sky (lani), bold, loud, brash (kale)
What is your tribe or Native nation?
I am a Native Hawaiian. We do not identify as a tribe. Our genealogy goes back one hundred generations.
Where are you from?
Is the warrior culture strong in your family and tribe?
I am descended from a long line of Native Hawaiian warriors, as well as my Caucasian ancestors from America and England and my Asian ancestors from China and Japan.
Both my grandfathers served in World War I, and my dad served in World War II. My oldest son, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, was an infantry platoon leader with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. He was killed in action on January 22, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq. My young son is currently a staff sergeant with the 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion’s Scout Platoon.
Why did you choose to serve in the armed forces?
In 1966 there was this little thing called the Selective Service draft. I always say I was so good that Uncle Sam invited me to be on his team.
Did your Native background play any part in your decision to join?
My heritage gave me the pride to step forward and serve with honor.
Why did you enter your specific branch of the military?
I guess the early scouting reports gave the Army the first shot at my being on their team.
What years did you serve, and where did you serve?
I served from 1966 to 1968. I was trained as a combat medic at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. I served with an Air Defense Command Unit at Travis Air Force Base, California, then volunteered for Vietnam and served as the senior medic with the Recon Platoon, 2nd Battalion 1st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, northern sector of South Vietnam, known as I Corps.
What was the highest rank you received?
E 5, SPC 5.
Were there other Natives who served with you, and would you care to talk about them?
There were other Native Hawaiians who served with me, as well as Native American Indians. All of them were natural leadrs, recognized for their bravery and their ability to adapt very easily to their surroundings and the natural jungle environment.
Were you treated differently in the service because you are Native?
No not really. My being from Hawai‘i in the ’60s, the discussion somehow always turned to my surfing experiences.
Is there a story or incident that sticks out the most in your mind about your service?
As a combat soldier, you become very superstitious. I lived by three strikes and you’re out. Following the third time I cheated death, I took on a different persona, completely confident in my survival. Nothing worried me from that time forward. I never doubted that I would survive combat.
Where were you when your service ended?
I was in country. My Expiration of Term of Service was out of South Vietnam, and I was separated from service at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Did your tribe or Native community do anything special for you upon your return home when your service ended?
No, but my family and many close friends celebrated with me.
Are you a member of any veterans groups?
Yes, a number of them—the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and otehrs.
Would you recommend joining the service to your family members or others of your tribe?
Yes, I do and I have, especially young men and women who are, perhaps, still unsure of their abilities or what career or profession they wish to pursue.
What do you think of the National Native American Veterans Memorial that will be biult on the grounds of the museum in Washington?
It’s long over due and very timely during this particular period in our nation’s history.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes. I grew up in a culture that accepted service to the nation as something expected of each of us. I proudly served and believe to this day that the United States would benefit from some sort of compulsory service program across the board, maybe not armed service for everyone, but at least service benefiting the greater good of the community at large.
Please let me extend condolences from all my colleagues at the museum on the loss of your son. Thank you for your service to the country and thank you for helping build the National Native American Veteran’s Memorial.
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The design competition for the National Native American Veterans Memorial closes on January 9, 2018, at 3 p.m. EST. All information about the competition is available at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/memorial/.