Opinion by LtCol (ret) Willes Lee
Hawaii – -(AmmoLand.com)- It was my good fortune to attend the Hawaii Friends of NRA Banquet last week. We enjoy many varied and yet similar Friends dinners in cities across the United States. These are evenings of raffles, giveaways, meeting Second Amendment supporters, silent auction, live auction, dinner, short program, and friends in the hallway catching up. Hawaii is different, perhaps unique, in several ways.
It is Hawaii. It was 52 degrees and cloudy when my plane lifted from DC. When the aircraft door opened in Hawaii, it was 82 and sunny. Aloha. On the island of Oahu, I stayed in Honolulu.
The event was on Veteran's Day, the 100th commemoration of the signing of the WWI Armistice. Earlier that day, I was privileged to attend a Pearl Harbor Submarine Veterans ceremony and lunch. You can see the service in three Facebook Live posts at WillesLeeNRA. A few attendees were veterans or widows of WWII submariners who pushed diesel-powered subs across the Pacific to execute attacks in Tokyo Bay. Yes, pretty darn humbling.
The Banquet is held on the Marine Corps Base, coined K-Bay for its location on Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of the island. This meant additional security checks at the main gate, especially for those without military ID. The Base Commander can easily, and in these days justifiably so, deny our use of his facility. No Marine Commander has ever done so. Semper Fi.
It is the only Friends dinner organized and run by scholastic student-athlete shooters. Sitting with me at dinner was the student chairman Adam Qwock who shoots for Punahou School (yup, same place Obama attended). Awards included a young lady who set the state girl's record; another girl is headed back to Junior Olympics try-outs in Colorado.
We moved to this larger venue about two years ago and still had a sold-out crowd of almost 275. Great sponsors – mostly local gun stores – make this event a success. Dawn Horn, the Friends Committee Treasurer, has overseen this effort since her daughter was the student chairman of the inaugural dinner. Hawaii Rifle Association President Harvey Gerwig led a large contingent of several tables of HRA members. I met many of HS coaches who ooze passion and commitment for the sport and their shooters.
Friends dinners support the NRA Foundation – the education, safety, facilities, and training side of the house, not the political stuff. Half of what is raised comes back to the respective state in the form of grants, and half is designated for national-level projects. NRA staffer Mike Carey not only helps on the ground with the event, but he is also a great live auctioneer.
I was honored to be asked to provide short remarks and to help present awards. A final “different than any other” you'll observe in the video of my comments. An entire room full of folks, not one coat & tie. It's Hawaii; office and evening attire is aloha shirt, and they presented me a lei.
This was a two-fold message. NRA President Colonel Ollie North has challenged all of us to double NRA membership – sign up a friend, family member, co-worker. As NRA Outreach Chairman, my message was for each attendee to invite someone new to the range, on a hunt, to your gun store, to a meeting.
Most all of my speaking opportunities, I ask for service members, vets, and their families to stand for recognition (my decision this time not to do the same for first responders was a hat tip to vets on Veterans Day). Hawaii has a close relationship with the military, almost 2/3 of the room stood.
Next year's Banquet is about the same time of year. There are also Friends dinners on Maui and the Big Island. Regardless, take in a local Friends of NRA event in this next year. You'll be shocked at how many people in your town support the NRA and NRA Foundation and be surprised at how many folks you know in attendance. If you don't have fun, you're doing something wrong.
LtCol (ret) Willes Lee is a member of the NRA Board of Directors, assigned six committees: Chairman Outreach, co-Chairman Collegiate Programs, Military & Veterans Affairs, Legislative Policy, Federal Affairs, Grassroots Development. Life member NRA, CCRKBA/SAF, GOA and Co-Chairman of the Trump-Pence Second Amendment Coalition. Lee is President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, on the ACU Foundation Board (hosts of CPAC), and a former RNC member/State Chairman. Col Lee is a combat veteran graduate of West Point, a 22-year Ranger and Airborne qualified Armor officer, DSSM/BSM/LM. He holds an Engineering Degree from USMA and a Master’s Degree of Public Administration. Follow at www.Facebook.com/WillesLeeNRA and on Instagram and Twitter. His full bio and blog are at www.WillesLee.com, and his email is [email protected]