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KS alumni share leadership lessons, advocate for veterans’ health and well-being

Nov. 8, 2023

Kimo Bacon KSK’71 and Reyn Kaupiko KSK’03, armed forces veterans who proudly represented the U.S. Army and Navy, respectively, have partnered to bring awareness and access to vital resources for fellow Native Hawaiians who served the nation. As veteran advocates for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration, the alumni have gone from fighting for their country to focusing on the health and well-being of veterans.

Here are some important programs these alumni advocates wanted to share with the Kamehameha Schools ʻohana: 

Survey helps understand suicide risk around Native Hawaiian veterans 

Veterans are encouraged to take part in an ongoing study entitled “Understanding Suicide Risk and Enhancing Suicide Prevention among Native Hawaiian Veterans.” This research study seeks to obtain information to help prevent suicide among Native Hawaiian veterans. Participation involves a one-time, hour-long interview with a member of the research team. Participants may also be eligible if they have knowledge of Native Hawaiian populations and/or experience working with Native Hawaiian veterans. Compensation of $50 will be provided. Those interested should contact study coordinator Eve Casiano at or (720) 723-3522. More information about the study is available at

Low loan rate benefits Native Hawaiian veterans

In 1993, the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) was first made available to the Native Hawaiian veteran community through the Veterans Administration (VA), providing a critical financial resource for home and land financing. In March of this year, the NADL interest rates were lowered from 6% to 2.5%, potentially saving thousands in home and land costs for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) inventory is classified as “Federal Trust Land” allowing for DHHL veteran beneficiaries on the lease document to utilize the NADL benefit only for DHHL lands. Unlike the typical VA loan, there is no third-party loan vendor – the VA will directly finance it. The NADL allows for direct loan opportunities from the VA for both financing and refinancing toward the purchase, construction, or improvement of a home.  

Veterans who are interested in qualifications should check with their local or state VA resources to ensure they meet eligibility and qualification standards for enrollment; those with an interest rate of 3.5% or higher can refinance their current loan to take advantage of the lower interest rate of 2.5% through June 2025. For more information, visit

Pitch in to advocate for Native Hawaiian veteran copay benefits 

On April 4, the VA published a final rule regarding copayments for health care and all urgent care visits for eligible Native American and Alaska Native veterans. While this copay exemption connects veterans to the quickest and best care and encourages Native American and Alaska Native veterans to seek medical care through the VA, it does not include Native Hawaiian veterans.  

“How could inclusion of Native Hawaiian veterans in this rule change benefit them?” Kaupiko says. “It would allow Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems to be reimbursed by the VA when eligible veterans receive services; exempt Native Hawaiian veterans from cost sharing at VA facilities; include Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems in the VA Community Care Program allowing for more immediate treatment; indirectly allow community resources to be made available for other needs; and encourage Native Hawaiian veterans to seek general VA benefits, not just for health care.” 

According to Kaupiko, Sen. Mazie Hirono’s office is working on legislation for the Native Hawaiian veteran community to address the April 4 rule decision. Those who agree that Native Hawaiian veterans should also receive this benefit are urged to contact their congressional representatives and share their thoughts.

Veterans share mana‘o with KS Kapālama haumāna 

The Kamehameha Schools Kapālama’s Associated Students of KS leadership team hosted 15 KS Alumni veterans on Thursday, Nov. 9, to recognize them for their service in advance of the Veterans Day holiday.

The Kamehameha Schools Kapālama’s Associated Students of KS leadership team hosted 15 KS Alumni veterans on Thursday, Nov. 9, to recognize them for their service in advance of the Veterans Day holiday. The veterans, who represented multiple branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, shared mana‘o with haumāna about their experiences in the military, including life lessons learned and leadership qualities gained. 

What I’ve learned from my experience at Kamehameha Schools and the Navy, my service to Ke Ali‘i Pauahi and the country never ends, it’s my duty to give back, it’s the only legacy that matters,” Reyn Kaupiko KSK’03 said. “It’s so good to be back here at Kamehameha surrounded by ‘ohana. We’re given so much, and we’re so fortunate, so how do you carry that on later in life and give back? 

“My father told me, ‘I don’t care what kind of job you have, be proud to be Hawaiian and be the best you can be.’ You learn by doing, and the more you do, the better you’ll learn it.” said Admiral (Ret.) Alvin Pau‘ole KSK’56, the first Native Hawaiian to qualify as a chief engineer of a nuclear reactor plant who then went on to command a fast attack Naval nuclear submarine and multiple squadrons. “How do you show your pride as a Hawaiian? For me to be proud, I had to be the best that I could be, and that’s what I want to pass on to you today. It will take a lot of hard work, but it made life very good for me.”

 Retired Navy Admiral Alvin Pau‘ole KSK’56 served a distinguished 30-year military career that included receiving three Legions of Merit and two Meritorious Service medals. He now dedicates his time creating educational opportunities for Native Hawaiian learners.

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