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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005

London visit makes loss clear

By Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo
Special to The Advertiser

Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo signed the Book of Condolences in London to extend Hawai'i's aloha following the July terrorist attacks. The signing was emotional for Tamayo as she reflected on the grieving in London, the fighting in Iraq and the deaths of Hawai'i-linked troops.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, a Hawai'i National Guard and Army Reserve soldier with the 29th Brigade Combat Team, is on a yearlong deployment to Iraq. This is her account of a trip she took to London while on R&R. Her report is one in an occasional series The Advertiser will publish from citizen soldiers.

Aloha from London.

I've been in Iraq for the past six months with the 29th Brigade Combat Team. My turn for R&R came up, and though it was a really tough choice not to come home, I decided to take my vacation in Europe — less travel time to get here and also an awesome learning experience.

But also, after the terrorist attacks in London, I felt compelled to visit here and pay my respects on my way back to Iraq. I contacted Mayor Mufi Hannemann to see if he'd like to make a proclamation of condolences that I could present on behalf of the people of Hawai'i, and he was happy to do it under very short notice.

While London's Mayor Livingstone was unable to meet with me personally, I was able to present Honolulu's proclamation to his manager of international affairs, Susannah Pickering-Saqqa. I also had the opportunity to sign a message in the Book of Condolences, extending Hawai'i's heartfelt respects and warmest aloha.

The room was very quiet as I signed and it was really quite a heavy moment — thinking about the terrible feeling of loss the people of London are experiencing, the fight that is ongoing every day in Iraq against these insurgent terrorists, the losses we have felt in Hawai'i, and how best to convey all of these emotions in a short written message.

And, yes, I have been riding the "tube" and buses all over the city — and they are always crowded. So even though there is definitely heightened awareness and probably a greater sense of fear, people here seem to be happy and upbeat, and are going about business as usual.

I have had a very nice R&R traveling through Europe, but for me, to be here in London to pay my respects in person has been the highlight of my trip and the perfect ending to my vacation. As a proud local girl, former state representative and a soldier fighting against terrorism in Iraq, this was truly an honor and a treasured experience. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Tamayo, 23, a former state representative, has the rank of specialist with a 29th Support Battalion medical company.