Students honor veteran with ‘Heart of a Hero’ award

Story and photo by Brister Thomas

Students of the Young Patriot’s Club at Navy Hale Keiki School (NHKS) presented the fifth annual “Heart of a Hero” award to Thomas Kahalu Lee, Jr. during a March 31 awards ceremony.

The idea of the Heart of a Hero award was designed and generated by the students in grades first through fourth of NHKS Young Patriot’s Club to honor local military heroes. The students led the entire event, from selecting their own hero to lining the red carpet as side boys to salute this year’s honoree.

Lee was chosen to be the fifth recipient based on his military service and heroic attributes such as bravery, honesty and selfless contributions to the community.

Lee’s story raised the curiosity of the students when they first met him at a school function last year. They were especially touched by his story of dedication to America and his fun-loving personality.

Lee serves the state of Hawaii and the governor’s office as the military affairs liaison. A graduate of Moanalua High School, Lee is an Army and Navy veteran. After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1999, he was personally moved to serve again in the Army following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

A student in the Young Patriot's Club presents the Heart of a Hero award to Thomas Kahalu Lee Jr.

A student in the Young Patriot’s Club presents the Heart of a Hero award to Thomas Kahalu Lee Jr.

A cancer survivor and recipient of a Purple Heart, “this hero truly embodies the perpetual sense of giving and sacrifice,” said Capt. J.P. Wilcox, NHKS Board of Governors chairperson.

Fourth grader Carter B. said of Lee, “He really cares about the military and our country. He never gave up and has a heart for everyone.”

As the students surrounded him during the ceremony, Lee said, “I can’t describe how blessed a feeling I had to be amongst such a great group of young students. Sharing time with the Young Patriots and their families will always be a cherished moment. It is with truly heart-felt appreciation and sincere mahalo palena ‘ole (gratitude beyond measure) to all of the children of the Young Patriot’s Club, director Raduziner, parents and all of the NHKS staff.”

“They voted for him because his energy is contagious and his service so loyal,” said Monique Raduziner, NHKS director and mentor of the Patriot’s Club.

“Tom Lee is everything a hero should be. He is courageous, strong, compassionate and a superb role model. Our students recognized his heart and unanimously choose him, because as children with pure hearts, they easily recognize someone with a hero heart,” Raduziner said.

“I look at these children and am reminded that there is the greatest hope for our future and for our country. When you look in to their eyes the future looks very bright,” Raduziner said.

(For more information, contact Brister Thomas, Navy Hale Keiki School communications, at 808-284-0293 or email, or visit the website

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Category: News