311th warrior represents Army at Wounded Warrior Games

| October 24, 2014 | 0 Comments


Sgt. 1st Class Crista Mary Mack
311th Signal Command (Theater)


FORT SHAFTER — In April 2013, Army Reservist and lifeguard Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale, 311th Signal Command, was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer.

Within 30 days of diagnosis, she had a mastectomy in one breast and a lumpectomy in the other, and was preparing to begin chemotherapy.

Fast forward to Sept. 2014. Nahale was cancer free and back in the water to represent the Army — and win medals — at the “Invictus Games” and “Warrior Games,” the international and national wounded warrior competitions.

“Sgt. Nahale is a prime example of a Soldier who has overcome obstacles and has achieved greatness,” said Capt. Jason Grams, 311th SC(T) company commander. “She could have been overcome and discouraged when she was first diagnosed, but instead, she kept her eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The April 2013 surgery was the first of three surgeries, all at Tripler Army Medical Center, in the space of a year.

“With the surgeries, I was not supposed to get in the water,” said the 35-year-old. “My plastic surgeon didn’t want me in the water at all, for various reasons, mostly infections, but he knew that I love the water, so he wanted to make sure that I could get back in.”

To Hawaiians, water is sacred and healing. Nahale’s first name, Kawaiola, literally translates to mean water of life.

“Water is a healing tool and has always been that for me, a lot more than just a physical feeling,” said Nahale.

Nahale had her final surgery in February and was then allowed back into the pool in April.

“When I went back to the plastic surgeon in April 2014, he finally gave me the green light to do physical activities again,” she said. “I cried in the office when he said that. He said, this is your one year anniversary and I want you to run and I want you to swim and I want you to go back to being the Soldier you were before you came in and before all this happened.”

In June, 2014, Nahale flew to West Point, New York, where, based on her swim times at the trials there, she qualified to compete in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games.

She was one of the 22 wounded, ill and injured Army Soldiers and veterans who was selected as part of the 100-member team to represent the U.S. at Invictus Games, Sept.10-14.

“It was such a great opportunity to be a part of the very first Invictus Games and medal at the very first games,” she said.

At Invictus, Nahale was the only representative from Hawaii, and she took home three medals. At the Warrior Games, she was one of two from Hawaii, where she won four more medals.

Nahale’s entire treatment and recovery has been with Army medicine.

“The Army family has supported me in many ways,” said Nahale. “My first Army family was with the 311th, especially through the support of the previous command team when I was first diagnosed. 1st Sgt. Martin Jenkins and Capt. Steven Lester and their spouses were truly family with their emotional and physical support.

“Next was Warrior Transition Battalion, and I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, but the staff and cadre made sure that whatever I needed and whatever I wanted to achieve there was possible,” she continued.

Nahale, still fighting, had advice for anyone struggling through illness or injury.

“Don’t let your illness or injury define you,” she said. “My name is not Sgt. Kawaiola ‘I have cancer’ Nahale. I am Sgt. Nahale. I will not let cancer beat me. I will not let cancer be my identity. Don’t let it be yours.”

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Category: News, Wounded Warriors

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