Interview with Maui Marine Ernest Hoopii

Combat Notebook: Dispatches from the War on Terrorism
By P. T. Brent, 6/3/2004 12:50:44 AM

Afghanistan ... Meet First Sergeant Ernest Hoopii United States Marine Corps, a career Marine from Maui. Back during high school years on Oahu, his pals at Mid Pacific use to call him “ Hoop” as he demonstrated his athletic prowess at volley ball, track, and of course hoops.

Ernest Hoopii (left), a Marine from Maui, with Tim Monaghan in Afghanistan.

“Hoop” as only a few Marines now know him. The young Marines at Charlie Company reverently call him First Sergeant. He is older and perhaps wiser than any man in the unit. A postion of considerable esteem within the Corps. He is the highest ranking enlisted man in this infantry company of over two hundred men.. The younger company commander a Captain Paul Merida from Oakland relies on Hoop’s leadership, maturity and respect with the young Marines. Most are going into harm’s way for the first time. A memory and experience these Leathernecks will have for a lifetime.  An experience their protected loved ones will never have to know. As America as always choosen to fight our enemies overseas before they reach our shores. 

This hapa haole boy (Hawaiian & Portuguese) now a veteran Marine from Maui is wise beyond his years. Hoop after working in security at the Hyatt Regency Maui joined the Corps. 

Why … when asked Hoop says the Beirut bombing really upset him. (actually did not say upset) His dad had been a Marine in Korea. After Beirut he immediately called a Marine recruiter in Oahu and went off to boot camp at San Diego recruit depot.

Hoop’s priorities are to accomplish the mission assigned while taking care of his fellow Marines, win the hearts of the Afghans, and seek / neutralize the people who wish to kill Americans as well as Afghans desiring freedom.  This is not without sacrifice. Hoop’s wife Jeane Maria is back at Lejune with Sean and Justin awaiting their Dad’s safe return. Hoop misses them. He also misses his new Harley purchased while at sea and fish and poi with pals in Maui. Hoop however says … “once we are done in Afghanistan we can roll right down to Iraq on our way home and clean it up too.”

These young men may shove off for the usual patriotism, adventure, duty and honor, however, when rounds are fired in anger, Marines fight for each other. They endure, not for lofty principles, but because they truly are their brother’s keeper. Simply stated … they fight for their fellow Marines. Hoop’s leadership will be a critical life saver when under fire.

Since the 1900’s skeptical people have said: “Tell it to the Marines”

Meaning they believe Marines are an omniscient outfit, who will separate reality from the foolish stories (sea stories). The rumors (scuttlebutt) say Americans are targets in Afghanistan. They state that winning the hearts and minds of the local populace is impossible.

Well, don’t “Tell it to the Marines” of Charlie Company. These warriors are the best America has. Under the leadership of Maui's First Sergeant "Hoop", they have been missioned with winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people; while vigorously pursuing any enemy types who wish to alter and embarrass the peace mission.  

These young Marines know that Afghanistan is better off than it was a two years ago when another group of leathernecks secured the dirt air strip at “RHINO”.  They immediately covered about forty miles to pay a call on the Taliban at their capital at Kandahar.  A bitter battle ensued with the base now being in coalition forces custody.   

Afghan schools, hospitals, utilities and resources are better than they have ever been in the history of the country. A new highway is under construction looped the country together.

Americans, indeed are fortunate to have First Sergeant Hoopii and his Marines fighting for democracy. 

This would be a most auspicious moment to take pride in America and our forces overseas. Do you remember pride in our country; we used to have it by the carload. Forget whether you agree or not with taking on Osamo bin Laden, just get yourself a flag a wave it proudly. Let's pray for our distant warriors, and let's bring our young Americans home safely.

Their packs, their rifles, they weigh as much. The heat, dust, cold and long night marches are all still there. 

The faces of these young warriors may appear to be younger. Faces like Paul Merida and faces like Joe Silvio. Yes, the faces may appear younger. But beneath those faces runs the same blood that stained and won battlefields, from Tripoli to Iwo Jima, and from Guadalcanal to Iraq.

They are the same outfit.  

The United States Marine Corps.

P. T. Brent is a Hawaii business man and former U.S. Marine infantry veteran. He has been embedded with the Marines in Iraq and other conflict areas for the past 60 days.

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