VIDEO/PHOTOS: Wounded Maui Marine Gets Surprise Hero’s Welcome
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWP8a8Jx4hk /] By Wendy Osher
A Maui Marine, injured in Afghanistan returned to a surprise homecoming at Kahului Airport on Thursday.
“I’m appreciative and just happy to be home,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Garrett “Kekoa” Dow upon arrival. “I did not expect this at all.”
Nineteen-year-old Dow, who is a 2010 Baldwin High School graduate, was greeted by family, friends and first responders, who gave him a hero’s welcome for his service and sacrifice overseas.
“When a wounded soldier comes home they don’t usually get the bells, whistle and marching band that they get when they come home with their platoon,” said Dow’s Aunt, Hermaine Souza. “When you get hurt, you get your mom,” which is always comforting, said Souza, but the family wanted to do something special.
Dow was shot in the left shin on January 21, 2012, during an ambush, while on active duty in the Musaquala village of Afghanistan. The incident occurred during a daylight foot patrol in an open field with Afghan police. Another individual in the foot patrol from the Afghan National Army did not make it out alive, and was shot and killed during the incident.
“He (Dow) was just a couple of weeks out from coming back,” said Sgt. Brandon Benzmarrs who recruited Dow two years ago. “That’s a dangerous time because you’re thinking about coming home at that point and its harder to focus,” said Benzmarrs.
Dow deployed for Afghanistan in July of 2011, and was scheduled to return in March 2012.
“The family is so blessed and thankful that we are able to see him again,” said Dow’s Aunt, Hervina Santos. “Our service troops do a lot for our freedom.”
Dow, who is an infantryman and dog handler for bomb sniffing dogs, said his dog, Gauge kept trying to jump on him and lick him when the incident occurred. “He was liking my leg after I got shot. It was pretty funny,” said Dow who found levity in the situation, and hopped to a helicopter for safety.
After undergoing several operations and skin grafts, Dow’s recovery has been described as exceptional. As he walked down the jetway, Dow did so on crutches, despite the bullet breaking his shin bone and leaving a large scar down the front of his leg.
“They told me I’m not supposed to be walking for six to ten weeks, but I ripped off the cast and I’m going to go swimming. If I come home, I gotta go to the beach,” said Dow convincingly.
Dow was initially Medivaced to a military hospital in Afghanistan, sent to Germany two days later, and was back on base at Camp Pendleton in California at the end of January.
A member of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Division, Dow plans to spend a few weeks at home on leave before returning to California to witness his unit’s return.
Dow is the son of Herlynn Scozzafava and the late Kelvin Dow, and older brother to Kahanu Dow 16, Kanalu Scozzafava 11, Kanoa Scozzafava 8. In addition to family members, Dow’s girlfriend, Claudia Lara, also who flew in special from college at the University of Hawaii to attend the event.
Also on hand were Danny Agsalog from the Mayor’s office and Council Member Michael Victorino, who issued a resolution to Dow for his dedication as a Special Forces Member and service as a role model for the community.
Dow is a lifetime resident of Kihei where he attended Kihei Elementary School and Lokelani Intermediate. “He went to Baldwin High School because of the ROTC program there,” said Souza, who noted that Dow enlisted in the Marines his senior year, and left for boot camp in July of 2010.
“He always had an interest of being in the military from when he was young and signed up for the Marines two days after his 17th birthday,” said Santos.
“He wants to be back with his Battalion,” said Santos who thanked all of those who offered their support, love and prayers. “It has been a blessing,” she said.