Ft. Belvoir USO Holds Inaugural USO Luau Bash for Wounded WarriorsChampionship

Volunteer Chefs from the Enlisted Aide Program gather to prepare a Luau feast before guests arrive.

Front Row L to R: CMSgt (ret.) Lori Kelly, GSCS Maria Lopez, TSgt Jai Holt, MSgt Jennifer Medeiros, CSC Frida Karani, CSCM Wes Tavares, CS1 Walter Cariastobar, CS1 Sierra Tyler, CSC Dong Ruan.Back Row L to R: MSG John Huth, CSC Fredric Gilmore, CSC Patrick Clarke, SFC Ron Bernard, CS1 Rasheen Maxwell, CSCS Vince Abdala, SSG John Densham

USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore local Enlisted Aides and Flag Mess CS’s, led by Navy Master Chief Wesley Tavares, teamed up with Monster Energy to bring "Da Aloha Spirit" to the DC area service members by hosting a USO "Luau Bash." Professional Surfer Makua Rothman, sponsored by Monster Energy, volunteered to join them for the festivities. The event honored Wounded Warriors at the Ft. Belvoir WarriorTransition Unit (WTU) along with other service members and their families.

Over 200 Service members and their families line up to enjoy a taste of Hawaii. The menu included a Whole Roasted Pig, Kalua Pork Tacos, Huli Huli Chicken, Garlic Chili Mussels, Furikake Dipped Musubi, Macadamia Nut Cheesecake, Li Hing Mui Pineapple, and much more.

A Luau is a traditional Hawaiian Feast paired with entertainment and dancing. Traditional foods such as Kalua Pig, Ahi Shoyu Poke, Spicy Poke, and Taro are served, and attendees participate in Hawaiian Music and Hula Dancing, often accompanied by ukuleles. USO volunteers joined Military Enlisted Aides to prepare and serve the traditional feast to guests. In the end, the USO, military chefs, entertainers, along with military sponsors succeeded in bringing the spirit of Hawaii to all in attendance.

All ages enjoyed the show as children from the Hawaiian dance group shared their culture and traditions.

Professional Surfer Makua Rothman signed autographs and serenaded the crowd with traditional Hawaiian songs while playing his ukulele as they enjoyed the feast. He shared his sentiments on partaking in the evening’s festivities: “First of all, I want to say thanks to Master Chief Wes Tavares, Admiral Moran, and General Selva. Thank you to all the military chefs who made this trip possible for me. More than taking away from this trip, everywhere I go I try to bring Aloha with me to share my culture with the world. It’s just about bringing the gift of Aloha to everyone. From one Ocean Warrior to my fellow brothers on the battlefield, Mahalo nui loa (Thank you very much)." When asked why he came all this way, Makua added, "I came here to spread Aloha to our troops and thank them for their service and everything they do for us so I can do what I want, and so I can have a choice to be who I want to be in life. These people sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Freedom ain't free. People pay with their lives. I just wanted to come here and say mahalo and say thank you to all the families and children. I just came to say thank you, that’s all."

Makua Rothman and the Hawaiian band “Halau Nohona” perform traditional Hawaiian music for guests.

Halau Nohona dancers brought Aloha spirt through expressive, traditional dancing.

Aloha is a powerful word in Hawaiian. It is Hello, it is Goodbye, it is Welcome, it is Love. It is with this Aloha Spirit that Enlisted Aides volunteered their time to give back to their fellow service members.

Planning this event did not happen overnight. The Luau took more than two months of planning, scheduling and coordinating with the USO, over 20 military chefs, and countless entertainers that volunteered their time to give back to our service members. The Ft. Belvoir USO was more than happy to volunteer its time, efforts, and facilities for the Luau. “We’re happy to do these things for our military and see the smiles on their faces…they deserve it,” said Karen, a USO volunteer. Guests were even more ecstatic about the event and could not stop raving about the experience. A soldier from the WTU praised the efforts of the USO, chefs, and volunteers, saying, “It was visually stimulating, and the food was delicious!...But that’s the USO, though.” His daughter, who sees the USO as a second home, added, “Everything was just so well put together.” Despite the heavy rains that evening, she said, “It was worth it coming out.”

CSCS Vince Abdala quickly plates Ahi Shoyu Poke in bamboo cones during service.

With CSCM (NAC/AW) Wes Tavares in the lead, Sailors and volunteers from other branches prepared and served the Hawaiian feast to these deserving Warriors. Hosting events of this caliber is their expertise. As Enlisted Aides, they are expected to prepare and serve meals to dignitaries who expect culinary excellence. They attend various culinary arts schools, academies, and training events meant to hone their craft and specialties to be shared with their guests. Enlisted Aides in the National Capital Region frequently serve U.S. and foreign dignitaries, Flag Officers, as well as other government officials.

USO volunteer staff created a cake to honor the special guest of the evening, Makua Rothman.

Navy Enlisted Aides have also taken the lead in providing bi-monthly training sessions for service members and their families at the Ft. Belvoir and Bethesda USOs to educate them on preparing healthy, nutritious meals. They also volunteer to prepare and serve a full meal for one hundred Wounded Warriors every month.

Events such as this “Luau Bash” are not a rare occurrence in the Enlisted Aide community. Enlisted Aides from the National Capital Region are involved in many events like this throughout the year. They organize their efforts to coordinate other events where they volunteer to give back to their fellow service members and the communities in which they live. They are a community that believes in paying it forward, and bringing communities together through food and Aloha. This is their small way of doing it.