Although I was on the East Coast at the time, I was very much present in spirit at the 18the Annual Military Recognition Luncheon at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, last Wednesday, May 21, in the middle of Hawaii Military Appreciation Week.
What made this year’s luncheon so special was the Aloha Spirit Award presented to the Kelley family and Outrigger Hotels & Resorts by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.
Fortunately, a good number of those who belong to both the Kelley ‘ohana and the Outrigger ‘ohana were present for the event: David Carey and his wife Kathy, Dr. Chuck Kelley and his wife Jennifer, Jean Rolles and Colleen Heyer.
It was a recognition that touches the Kelley ‘ohana and the Outrigger ‘ohana deeply, since we have long enjoyed a special relationship with the brave and selfless men and women of our military community. When I was a boy, I recall my parents, Roy and Estelle Kelley, often entertaining military personnel in our home. This was years before they went into the hotel business.
In fact, I’ll never forget that my parents were having a Navy officer over for one of my Mom’s legendary waffle breakfasts on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — and how he dashed off hastily, in his dress whites, to rejoin his unit when he realized Pearl Harbor was under attack.
In the last years of World War II, my parents would often entertain the sons of mainland friends on their way to battle in the Pacific. The GIs would bring hard-to-find liquor from the PX. I enjoyed those great parties — until I learned that some of the soldiers and sailors we had just entertained lost their lives only a few weeks or months later.
Nor will I ever forget our experiences during the Vietnam War, shortly after I began working full-time at Outrigger. In those days, after serving a term in Vietnam, many soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen were flown to Hawaii for a brief reunion with family, wives and girlfriends. Rest and recreation — R&R — they called it. Every night was a struggle, as we balanced commitments to tourists and last-minute calls from the R&R Housing Office pleading for just one more room for a serviceman.
We usually found room for them, but the effort was not without cost. One day I was slapped with a subpoena to appear in court to answer to a tourist whose room had been given to a serviceman on R&R from Vietnam. We fought the case and lost, and Dold v. Outrigger has become the classic benchmark for overbooking liability in America. I am proud of what we did and would do it again today.
Today we continue to try to give back to our military as best we can. Mildred Courtney does an incredible job of coordinating our efforts and helping out our men and women in uniform in a variety of ways, and we are all immensely grateful to her. And I know all the members of the Outrigger ‘ohana in Hawaii go out of their way to extend special aloha to our many military guests.
The recognition we have just been accorded makes it appear our efforts are large. But they pale in comparison to the gifts of freedom and security that our military men and women provide us all, often under the most difficult conditions and sometimes at the greatest personal sacrifice.
So it is a great honor, indeed, to have been recognized with the Aloha Spirit Award.
“Helping Hands” to the Military
Following is a transcript of remarks by Lynn Cook, Chair of the Aloha Spirit Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, as she presented the Aloha Spirit Award to the Kelley family and Outrigger Hotels & Resorts:
“We all know that the members of our active military community reach out to the civilian community, providing helping hands and performing good deeds. Today we honor a family, an ohana, as we say in Hawaii. This family has given to the military through a total family and company-wide commitment.
“Would the Kelley ‘ohana please join us on stage? Dr. Richard Kelley is away from Hawaii today, but we have with us many members of the Outrigger ‘ohana. Let me introduce his son-in-law, David Carey, company President and CEO, and his wife, Kathy Carey, Dr. Kelley’s daughter; Dr. Kelley’s son, Dr. Chuck Kelley, Director of Sales and Special Markets, and his wife Jennifer; Dr. Kelley’s sister, Jean Rolles, Vice President of Community Relations; and his daughter, Colleen Heyer — all family and board members of Outrigger. Also away from the Islands today is another of Dr. Kelley’s daughters, Bitsy Kelley, who is Director of Brand and Business Development for OHANA Hotels.
“Working with his father, the great hotelier Roy Kelley, Dr. Richard Kelley helped develop more than a quarter of all the hotel rooms in Waikiki. Beyond Waikiki there are neighbor island hotels and, beyond that, resorts across the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. As the company grew, he and his family also expanded their support of the military in Hawaii.
“The list of military sponsorships and programs is long, so we will just mention a few:
“Outrigger provides yearly support of the USO Fun Run.
“They were a longtime sponsor of the HydroFest and continue to sponsor great sporting events where military personnel are welcome as participants and spectators.
“Each year Outrigger sponsors the Five Star Salute, honoring members of all branches of the military.
“At Thanksgiving, Outrigger delivers 200 turkeys to Army families.
“Outrigger established the Hale Malama — House of Caring — supplying like-new household goods and clothing to Navy and Marine Corps families.
“Each time a ship deploys from Hawaii, the ship’s library is filled with 500 new books, putting good reading material into the hands of our young sailors.
“Outrigger has participated in the commissioning of the USS Lake Erie and the USS O’Kane, the first two ships ever commissioned in the Islands.
“And for those of you who are military, remember that there is always a special rate for you at any Outrigger or OHANA hotel in the Islands.
“It is our pleasure to present the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s Aloha Spirit Award to a family that is legendary in Hawaii’s tourism industry and dear friends of Hawaii’s military community; Dr. Richard Kelley, the Kelley Family and the Outrigger ‘ohana.”