FORT SHAFTER, HAWAII –
Fort Shafter, Hawaii— Henry N.J. Lee felt the call to duty early on. He dreamed of being a Soldier. At 15,
he enlisted into the U.S. Army where he eventually rose to the rank of command sergeant major becoming the first Korean-American to do so.
His 24-years of service spanned three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 1968, while resupplying a unit, Lee’s helicopter was shot down and he was wounded. The Purple Heart recipient, hung up his uniform, but continued to make a difference as a local educator and later as a public servant.
Lee was honored posthumously as a recipient of the United States Army Pacific Mana O Ke Koa “Spirit of the Warrior” award, June 2.
During a ceremony held on Fort Shafter’s Historic Palm Circle, U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General Gen. Charles A. Flynn presented the prestigious community service award to Lee’s family.
“Henry was a great man, a friend, and a constant source of support for not only the Army but also the local community,” said Flynn. “Henry was the living embodiment of Selfless Service – through his time in the Army, through his dedication to his family, to our veterans and their families, and to his Hawaiian community.”
The award is presented each year to individuals who have distinguished themselves for their steadfast support to Soldiers, their families and the Army community in the Pacific.
The individuals selected to receive this award are community leaders that have demonstrated unparalleled support for Soldiers and have worked for the betterment of their communities.
The Wahiawa-native enlisted in the Army spring of 1946, and after basic training, he was sent to the European theater and assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, “The Big Red One.”
In 1952, Lee returned to Hawaii where he was assigned to Company I, Hawaiian Infantry Training Center at Schofield Barracks as a drill sergeant.
He went on to become a platoon sergeant and later promoted to first sergeant.
After retiring from the Army in 1969, Lee attended the University of Hawaii and earned a bachelor of education degree.
He taught public school in State of Hawaii for five years. He continued to work for the Department of Regulatory Agency’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Boards and Commissions.
Lee continued his dedication to the Army by serving on an array of community and military boards and associations.
The retired Soldier kept in shape throughout his life serving as chairman of the State Boxing Commission and as a dance instructor in the Wahiawa Ballroom Organization and Dance Club.
Lee passed away January 9, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Rose Lee and four children, Laura (Paul) Putzulu, Henry (Cheryl) Lee, Lissa Collins and Leslie (Ivan) Miyashiro.
His wife served the military community for nearly four decades as the former owner of Rose Lee’s Alteration Shop a mainstay in Fort Shafter and Kalihi.
Lee was in attendance along with her family to accept the award on behalf of her husband.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Henry Lee thanked Flynn and the community for the honor adding, “Dad would’ve turned 93 on June 6, D-Day. [He] was a military man, loved the military. We’re so proud of him and what he has done.”
Lee’s family was presented a medallion and a certificate of achievement. The award also includes a perpetual handcrafted Hawaiian kahili made of wood, bone, and feathers. Kahili were used in ancient Hawaiian times in the same way as European nobility used shields with coats of arms. Hawaiian nobility used the kahili to show status, lineage, and family ties. These three outstanding Soldiers, patriots, and community leaders now belong to the ohana of Mana O Ke Koa.
The inaugural Mana O Ke Koa award was presented in 2007, and each year the award continues to symbolize the commitment to recognizing and fostering positive relations between the local community and the Army. This year marks the 16th
anniversary of the award.
Below is a list of past Mana O Ke Koa award recipients:
- 2007- William W. Paty, Jr. (Legendary Hawaii WWII Veteran, D-Day Paratrooper, POW; Civic Leader and Civilian Aide to SECARMY Emeritus)
- 2008- Ms. Pasha Baker (Employer Support to Guard and Reserve Ambassador, Civic Leader)
- 2009- Hon. Linda Lingle (Hawaii Governor, Military Supporter/Army Community Covenant)
- 2010- Mr. Ken Bailey (Chamber of Commerce Armed Services Committee)
- 2011- Ms. Carole Kai (Great Aloha Run founder, Carole Kai Charities have made donations to Army MWR)
- 2012- Mr. Albert Silva (Outspoken Army Supporter, Waianae Civilian Advisory Board, Makua Military Reservation)
- 2013- Senator Daniel K. Inouye (Legendary Hawaii Soldier and Statesman, Posthumous)
- 2014- Mr. David Carey (Military Supporter, Outrigger CEO, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce)
- 2015- Hon. Ed Kubo (Hawaii Judge, Veterans Treatment Court)
- 2016- Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (Legendary Hawaii Soldier and Statesman)
- 2017- Rep. K. Mark Takai (Hawaii Soldier/Statesman, Posthumous)
- 2018- Mr. Allen K. Hoe (Vietnam Veteran, Civ Aide to SECARMY)
- 2019- Ed Gayagas (Vietnam Veteran, University of Hawaii Fallen Warrior Memorial)
- 2020- Domingo Los Banos (World War II veteran, Outspoken Filipino veteran supporter, Posthumous)
- 2021- Maj. Gen. (Retired) Robert Lee (Former Hawaii Adjutant General, Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition advocate)
- 2022- Gen. (Retired) David Bramlett (Vietnam War infantryman, Former U.S. Army Forces Command commander)
- 2023- Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Henry N.J. Lee (WWII, Korea, Vietnam veteran, Posthumous)