Andy Jamila has served the Waimanalo community as an advocate for decades. Before that, he proudly served his country.
“When they asked me to pick up a rifle, I picked up a rifle,” he said. “When they asked me to pick up a machine gun, I picked up a machine gun. When they asked me to get into a 60-ton armored vehicle tank, I got in it.”
Jamila was honorably discharged as a sergeant after serving six years in the U.S. Army. He returned home where he became a fixture in Waimanalo.
About a month ago, while working out, Jamila noticed he was struggling to breathe. Several days later, his condition worsened and he was rushed to Castle Medical Center.
“When they took the blood from my arm, they looked at the blood and it was like mobile oil,” he said.
Doctors told him he was on the edge of death. Ninety percent of his heart was not working and he needed immediate quadruple bypass surgery.
Jamila was told he needed to go to Triple Army Medical Center for services, but there were no guarantees that a room or even a doctor was available.
His doctor feared he wouldn’t survive a trip over the Pali. “I could have (had) a major coronary going over the hill,” Jamila said.
That’s when Jamila reached out to U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D, Hawaii, a fellow veteran.
“The risk of moving him anywhere else was something that no one should have been willing to take. So I was glad I got my team and we started working with (Veterans Affairs) and others, bringing multiple people together to be able make sure that he got the benefits that he has earned as a veteran,” she said.
Gabbard helped organize for Jamila to receive immediate medical care at Castle Medical Center.
“When they come home and they face challenges themselves, our nation owes a debt of gratitude to them to make sure that they are taken care of, that they are served and that they get the benefits that they have earned through their service to our country,” she said. “I’ll do everything I can as a citizen, as a veteran, as a member of Congress to be able to make sure that our veterans are honored and that they are served, no matter where they go.”
Jamila is now back home, more than 50 pounds lighter. His heart is working at 50 percent and with proper diet and care, doctors say he can make a full recovery.
“A lot of veterans are homeless on the beach. Maybe they’ll see this and they’ll call in that they need help,” Jamila said. “There’s nothing on my triceps or biceps now, but… I’m alive. I’m alive.”
Jamila’s strong voice for Waimanalo is now a strong voice for veterans.