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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 9:53 p.m., Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hilo soldier dies on 4th tour in Iraq

Advertiser Staff

HILO, Hawai'i — A Big Island man who was on his fourth tour in Iraq died Friday of injuries he suffered two weeks ago when a roadside bomb exploded near an armored Stryker vehicle he was riding in as part of a convoy, a family member said.

Henry Kahalewai, 44, was a senior enlisted man who planned to retire next year after 20 years in the Army to build a home on land he owned in Upper Puna, said Joseph Aguiar, Kahalewai's cousin.

Kahalewai had a grown son who lives in Honolulu, and two younger daughters who lived with him and his wife in Tacoma, Wash., Aguiar said.

"He's our hero. Four tours of Iraq is enough for one person," Aguiar said.

Kahalewai was born and raised in Hilo, and enlisted in the Army because job and career opportunities in Hilo were limited at the time, Aguiar said. "He wasn't comfortable, and he decided, well, he liked the military life," he said.

Aguiar, who lives in Kea'au, said his cousin had expertise in armored vehicles, including tanks and the Stryker.

Kahalewai came from a family with a long history of military service, including Kahalewai's father, grandfather, and his uncle. Kahalewai's father left the Big Island to be with his son before he died, Aguiar said.

"God knows how he's hurting right now," Aguiar said of Kahalewai's father

Aguiar said Kahalewai was outgoing, and called him "a true Hawaiian spirit."

"He was a very good man," Aguiar said. "He was just a bundle of life, in the cold he was warmth, the warmth of our life.

"He was in there trying to take care of good old Uncle George Bush's problem, and four times he went back."