My name is Kamakapu and I am a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran who was drafted by the United States Army in 1972. I served for three years and returned to Hawai’i where I had met my wife. We had 6 beautiful children. My youngest daughter joined the Army. She was sent to serve on the front line in Iraq in 2001. Shortly after, she was transferred to Afghanistan as a Staff duty driver. While transporting soldiers to the Embassy in 2006, an IED exploded, taking the lives of all in the vehicle – including my daughter.
I was lost, I was hurt, and I had no hope. It was painful. I just wanted the pain to go away. I turned to heroin, cocaine, Oxytocin, pakalolo and ice for the next 6 and a half years. I ripped off my family, lived on the streets and continued to look for something strong enough to take the pain away. Nothing worked. The pain was still there. I became more and more hopeless, wondering why I was still alive. I had lost everything and thought there was nothing to live for.
On August 14, 2014, I was sitting outside of Fort DeRussy Chapel in Waikiki when the U.S.VETS outreach team came and approached me. They asked me, “Are you a veteran?” I said, “Are you a cop?” They shared with me about the program, but at first I did not trust them. I was afraid of them. Eventually I listened. I became hopeful, and they helped me go through detox before entering the Veterans In Progress (VIP) program at U.S.VETS – Barber’s Point.
At U.S.VETS I went through the substance abuse program at the VA, became a Quad Leader, helped out in the community, attended all classes on site and participated in the Ho’ololi Project to inspire Change. U.S.VETS helped me to accept myself as a veteran, remind me of my native Hawaiian roots and values, and gave me hope to live a full life.
Today, I am 453 days sober – 453 days and counting. I am living in the U.S.VETS permanent housing program, continuing to work on my program. I have now purchased the Hawaiian homestead property making myself an official homeowner. Today, I am sober, I have God in my life again, and I have made amends with my family. I am currently fighting the battle of liver cancer and, although all odds may be up against me, I still have hope. I can fight the good fight because I am hopeful. U.S.VETS gave me that hope again.
I hope to reach out to other veterans and support them through their own battles of life. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. And thank you to the staff at U.S.VETS for giving me the support and guidance in which I am forever grateful. Aloha.