U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq war, told Baldwin High JROTC cadets Thursday that they'd "better have strong convictions in why you're doing what you're doing" if choosing to enter the military.
Gabbard spoke to about 160 JROTC and leadership class students in the school's Multipurpose Room during her visit to Maui on Thursday. She also hosted her first-ever "Tweet-Up" meeting with local social media experts at Vineyard Food Co., met with local business leaders and toured Hui No Ke Ola Pono to learn about its efforts to promote Native Hawaiian health care.
At her first stop of the day at Baldwin, Gabbard talked to students about her two tours in the Mideast. She is currently a captain and military police company commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaks to Baldwin High School JROTC and leadership class students Thursday morning in the school’s Multipurpose Room. She told the young audience that her goals of supporting seniors, education and the military all come down to one basic issue in Congress — strengthening the economy.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"I would have joined the infantry, but I wasn't able to because I am a woman and at the time women were not allowed to enter that field," Gabbard said.
Women were banned from combat roles when she joined up. Recently, that ban was lifted.
The first-term congresswoman was asked if she had advice for someone entering the military.
"Whatever branch of service you are entering, know that you will have to endure physically and mentally challenging training and that you better have strong convictions in why you're doing what you're doing," she said. "You will have your doubts, but you have to know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Think of the many who've gone before you and made it through. Know it's all about your attitude and mindset."
Gabbard said that "the most awesome job you can have in the military is to be a leader . . . because you get to take care of your fellow soldiers."
She was a platoon leader and it was a "very challenging time for me because of the biases, maybe unknown, of other soldiers."
Still, as difficult as it was she has fond memories of the time and "the unbreakable bond you have with fellow soldiers."
"The experience I've had as a soldier and civilian at the same time has taught me that you have to know when it's time to lead and when to follow," she said.