Sgt. Garry Naipo
Garry Kamiko Naipo grew up in the Kaneohe, Oahu area, the son of Emilia Matilda Hookano Naipo and Gene Naipo, a Kamehameha schoolmate of mine (Sam Naipo, Garry’s uncle, was my Kamehameha classmate). I knew both Naipo brothers very well and always considered Sam and Gene to be the personification of some of the ewe maika`i ekanaka maoli (best Hawaiian traits). It must be in the genes because Garry Kamiko Naipo has those same great personal qualities! Garry graduated from Castle High School in 1974 and joined the Hawaii National Guard shortly thereafter. Garry moved to Lacey, Washington in 1977, going to work for the City of Lacey in what has become a 23 years plus career. Ever the “warrior”, Garry joined the Washington State National Guard in 1977 and retired in 2006 after nearly thirty one total years of service as a National Guardsman.
In 2004, Sergeant Garry Naipo’s 81st National Guard Infantry Brigade was deployed to Iraq. Sergeant Naipo was not among those ordered to deploy and he was qualified to retire then with nearly thirty years of service. But those Hawaiian-bred traits of his including patriotism, leadership, loyalty and concern for his troops convinced him that if his troops were going off to fight a war, his rightful place was with them so he volunteered to go with them!
Sergeant Naipo’s primary functions in Iraq were as a vehicle mechanic and driving military trucks in convoys moving troops or supplies from one point to another. During his tour in Iraq, he saw the best (everyday acts of bravery by his fellow soldiers) and he saw the worst (atrocities including mangled bodies of friends and foe as well as innocent women and children). Every day at his home base of Camp Anaconda in Iraq was marked by at least six ear-deafening explosions of incoming mortar rounds or nearby roadside bombs. The nightmare that haunts him most concerns the death of Army Specialist Quoc Binh Tran, a young American soldier of Vietnamese ethnicity whom the then nearly fifty year old Sergeant Naipo had taken under wing in an almost father-son kind of relationship! In November 2004, Specialist Tran was in the lead vehicle of a convoy that was demolished by a roadside bomb. Sergeant Naipo was in one of the following vehicles but rushed to Tran’s side, trying desperately to stop the bleeding but there was nothing Naipo could do to save his friend’s life!
Sergeant Naipo returned, a decorated soldier, to his home and to his wife and family in Lacey, WA in June 2005 but he was not the same as when he left. He had lost over 40 pounds running around in the hot Iraq climate carrying nearly fifty pounds of armor on his body. More than that though, he had lost a lot of himself out there on the arid sands of Iraq, his hearing greatly diminished, his mind filled with gory memories of lives lost to bullets and bombs! He is now hyper-sensitive to any distractions and seems most comfortable when alone. Sergeant Garry Naipo is definitely a wounded warrior but it took nearly two years after his return from Iraq before the US Government finally began treating Sergeant Naipo’s P.T.S.D, treatments which will continue as long as needed!
Garry Kamiko Naipo is a good man, a great father and grandfather, a loving husband and one of the City of Lacey’s best employees! The past few years have been difficult for him because, honestly, most of us don’t understand what PTSD is or how to deal with PTSD victims. It has been Garry Naipo’s ohana (including his adult children and their spouses, his three mo`opuna, his mother-in-law and especially his wife Alii) who have been the unsung heroes of this story for they have slowly but surely helped rebuild Garry’s faith, self confidence and trust in others while helping him cope with his recurring nightmares and periods of anxiety and depression. Garry wants you to know that he is getting to be more like his old self with each passing day. He sends his mahalo to all who have tried to help him and his family during this difficult time!
Garry Kamiko Naipo: you may not want to be one but in my mind you are: a hero! Mahalo....you da Man!!!!
Until next time, be kind to each other......me ke Aloha pumehana..............Danny