MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
Coming from a broken home in Hilo, Hawaii, Pvt. Kapono Kuheana, Company H, Platoon 2175, originally joined the Marine Corps looking for the brotherhood he had never been able to experience. But it took a couple of years for him to earn the title “Marine.”
Kuheana first arrived on the depot in July 2006. It was a long and rough journey. He said he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he has done without the encouragement of his new family, the Marines.
"I had never experienced what a real family is like," said Kuheana. "When I came to recruit training, I found brothers in my platoon members and fathers in my drill instructors."
Kuheana soon realized just how much he needed the support of this brotherhood, as his time aboard the depot was plagued by injury.
Originally with Company B, Kuheana was dropped to the medical rehabilitation platoon with shin splints. After his recovery he picked up with Company I on training day one and made it through the Crucible to training day 55. He was dropped from training again, but this time with stress fractures.
Those fractures kept him from completing boot camp and he was sent home.
After his discharge, Kuheana returned to Hawaii and lived with Renee Godoy, a pastor and surrogate mother in his life.
He found work but realized he wanted to become a Marine, said Godoy.
He became invigorated and determined to enlist in the Marine Corps and complete the training.
"He knew what he wanted and I could tell there was nothing that was going to get in his way this time around," said Staff Sgt. Richard Kagawa, recruiter at Recruiting Station Hilo, Hawaii. "He had the desire to be a Marine and the discipline to accomplish that goal."
Kuheana healed and returned to training, feeling more confident as he stepped, for the second time, on the yellow footprints.
His experience seemed new, but this time he was ready for the challenges that he would face.
He had an advantage coming back to boot camp because he had already completed most of the training. According to Kuheana, he held the top position of guide, the recruit responsible for all other recruits in his platoon, and was also a squad leader, where he was in charge of less recruits.
Kuheana said the most challenging part of his return was not giving up. He said his drill instructors taught him courage and that real leaders continue to push through hard times, even if it hurts and they just want to quit.
"I think a lot of recruits wear the uniform and go through training not knowing what it really means," said Kuheana. "I already lost it once, and I wasn't going to give up and lose it again."
Kuheana showed his motivation throughout training by helping other recruits. He said he felt he needed to lead by example and take care of his brothers to his left and right. During physical training, Kuheana crossed the finish line and ran back to help recruits do their best.
"He always did that during the physical training sessions before he left for boot camp," said Kagawa. "He already had the ‘never leave a man behind mentality.’ He would push them to work harder, run faster and above all never quit on themselves. His independence and self-confidence rubbed off on anyone he helped."
Kuheana said he provided aid to guides and squad leaders throughout the company. He taught them to speak up and correct other recruits when they did something wrong. He also helped everyone that needed help with Marine Corps knowledge and drill to emphasize to them the importance of teamwork.
"I would rather have everyone work as a team and realize how valuable that will be in the future than have everyone strive for their own excellence and fight amongst themselves," said Kuheana.
He said after successfully meeting his goal of becoming a Marine, he felt the most valuable lesson he learned was that with a little bit of heart and a lot of determination it is possible to accomplish anything.
"It is important to remember there is always someone who has it harder than you," said Kuheana. "And no matter how hard you have it, you can do anything you put your mind to."
Kuheana said he plans to take the lessons he learned in recruit training and make the best out of them in his career in the Marine Corps. After his 10 days of boot leave and combat training in Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., he will follow a childhood interest and become an aviation electronic technician.
Though his journey was long and disappointing at times, Kuheana said he was glad to heal from his fractured bones and persevere the challenge in boot camp to become a Marine.