Friday, May 6, 2011

A Legacy that Lasts a Lifetime

When our journey began we pictured ourselves on the Pacific battlefields of WWII. As we came to know five extraordinary gentlemen, we realized we could not fully understand the horrors they experienced, but these five heroes shared their personal, life stories with us in a week’s time.

It was tough for Mr. George Beden to transition back into civilian life after four years of war and Mr. Parke Piper admitted that he had to work hard at cleaning up his lifestyle once he became a civilian. Mr. Guy Piper made a career out of the Navy for nearly twenty years after WWII was over. Mr. Jack Holman and Dr. Bruce Heilman went to college thanks to the G.I. Bill and they spent many late nights sharing war stories not only about themselves, but also about their brothers-in-arms who served alongside.

Yesterday, we had the honor to meet with some of our nation’s finest through the Wounded Warrior Project. Our veterans, soldiers of yesteryear, met today’s heroes and helped them cope with the tragedies of war, the physical and emotional scars that every soldier carries with them. One look on our veterans’ faces after a private meeting told the whole story--each group had something to offer the other.

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a hike to the top of Diamond Head National Monument. Although 5:00 am seemed early, it was worth the strenuous hike for a chance to breathe the fresh ocean breeze and take in the magnificent views from atop the crater. Our outdoor adventure continued with an outrigger canoe ride and although we were all novices, we were riding the waves in no time!

Trying to condense such a memorable trip into one column is impossible. We have learned more in this one week, from these five men, than we ever thought possible. They have taught us the importance of honor, duty, courage, and respect. Our perspective of those who serve our sacred nation has been forever changed. Because of this experience, we will never be able to pass a member of our military without showing the gratitude they deserve. As we go from here, it is our duty and our honor to keep the legacy of the greatest generation alive for the next generation.

We would like to close by offering our thanks to a number of individuals who made this trip possible: Dr. Davis, Dr. Head, and Dr. Mullinax at the college; Diana Smith, our nurse; Austin Berner, our extraordinary photographer; our tour guides, Jessie and Paul, at Hickam Field; our tour guides on several days, Mike and Ron; our expert van driver and go-to-guy, Joshua; our "enabler"--COL Watson and his wonderful family; and our sincere, heartfelt thanks to Patricia Trowbridge, who called in so many favors, made all of the arrangements, and who made our week in Hawaii a once in a lifetime experience.

Brandolyn Hoagland and John Dye

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cramping The Style

The destroyer Chung-Hoon looked the same to Mr. George Beden this morning, but he soon learned of the differences inside. Named for Hawaiian native Read Admiral Gordon Chung-Hoon, nearly 1500 men called the destroyer home in WWII; today, its crew numbered less than 300 and was outfitted with the latest computer technology. One thing that hadn’t changed was “Berthing Room,” where the bed racks still looked like matchboxes, and if you’re over six foot your legs will have to hang off the side! Recalling a story he told us on the second day of our adventure, Mr. Beden said he always wanted to try to get a bunk on top because he didn’t want everyone crawling on his bed during their free time playing cards and congregating to have fun.

After lunch, we were very fortunate to tour a nuclear submarine, the USS Louisville. “We live this,” according to Chief Bransfield. They live this with nearly 150 people in a thirty-five hundred square foot area! We were able to see the Louisville’s four torpedo tubes, but it also has twelve vertical launch tubes capable of sending Tomahawk missiles hurling towards those who would do us harm. These sailors live as our veterans did. They have so much passion for their jobs and have an entire community to support them. It is an amazing feeling to know that we have men and woman who serve our country NO MATTER if it cramps the style of the life they had or have.

Our day ended with the veterans telling us some everlasting stories of their lives during and after WWII. It’s so hard to believe our trip is coming to an end, but tomorrow afternoon we will be winging our way back to campus—a bittersweet moment to be sure.

Liz Wiley and Paul Harloff

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tragedy to Triumph

Our day started at Hickam Field, where there still remain bullet holes made by Japanese aircraft on that fateful day, December 7, 1941. Our day ended aboard the “Mighty MO,” the U.S.S. Missouri, where Japan surrendered nearly four years later.

As we toured, our veteran, Dr. Bruce Heilman, related his memories of the war. He was with the US Marines stationed at Okinawa when news arrived of the bombing of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Prior to August 1945, he and his fellow soldiers genuinely thought that they would have to lay down their lives for their country. With a smile, he recalled the celebration and firing of weapons that followed the arrival of the news that the war had finally ended.

During our tour of the USS Missouri, a US Navy Honor Guard presented American flags to each of our veterans in recognition for their service to our country. None of these men had experienced such before and Dr. Heilman commented that at no other time had he seen this ceremony so well executed, as it was this day. To further honor our veterans, they were given the opportunity to raise their flag above the USS Missouri before it was saluted and returned to the men. As students, we left with a deeper respect for our flag, its heroes, and the price they paid for our freedom.

Tonight, we were invited to the home Marine Corps Colonel Walter Watson and his family for dinner where our veterans shared personal stories regarding their wartime experiences. While listening, we were reminded of an excerpt from a prayer recited by sailors aboard the “Mighty MO” in memory of those fallen, but not forgotten. “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they now are a part of us.” Our generation is a candle against the setting sun of the “Greatest Generation” and our veterans are, indeed, a part of each of us.

Rachel Napier and Joseph Long

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Brothers' War

We started our day with a VIP barge tour of Ford Island, the primary target of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, located within Pearl Harbor. Our first stop was the “forgotten” memorial of the USS Utah. All that we could see of the ship was its rusted hull sticking up near the shoreline. Next, we sailed to the memorial of the USS Nevada, which beached in an ill-fated attempt to sail out of the harbor. Later, we sailed past the USS Missouri, known as the “Mighty Mo,” on our way to the USS Arizona Memorial. The fact that the Missouri and the Arizona are next to each other is significant in that the sinking of the Arizona marked America’s entrance into the war, while the surrender of Japan occurred on the “Mighty Mo.” From the Arizona Memorial, we spotted small drops of oil still surfacing from the remains of the sunken ship after nearly seventy years.

Throughout the day, we were able to listen to stories from our veteran, Parke Piper, who served in the Marine Corps for three years. He is a quiet, reserved man, yet as the week has progressed, he has begun to open up to us more and more. Although he was not at Pearl Harbor during the attack, he was later stationed here. Parke told us about a specific time when he had to pull one of his buddies out of the cockpit of a crashed plane. The man told Parke that he would never forget him as long as he lived. The man died the next day, but Parke has still remembered him all of these years.

Later, we visited the Pacific Aviation Museum where Parke and his brother, Guy, pointed out some of the planes in which they had flown during their military service. As we observed a detailed map of Ford Island, Guy pointed out the barracks from which he had observed the initial attack on Pearl Harbor. After we left the museum, we drove over to the barracks and Guy located the window of the room where he had lived while stationed on the island. These two brothers have been extremely inspirational through their humble attitudes as they revisit the tragic and moving experiences throughout the war in the Pacific. As our trip has progressed, we have learned to admire our veterans as true heroes to our nation. We will never forget them.

Amanda Kull and James Mahan

Monday, May 2, 2011

Unexpected Experiences

Have you ever sung Kumbaya in a Hawaiian church service? Have you ever randomly met a U.S. Senator after church? Have you ever felt like you were standing on top of the world looking over the whole ocean? Sunday was one of those days.

It started with a visit to the 191 year old Kawaiaha’o Church in Honolulu. The first thing we noticed was the hospitality and welcoming spirit of the Hawaiian people. The pastor, Kahu Curt Kehuna, recognized our veterans and the congregation gave them a standing ovation. Pastor Kehuna then recognized WWII veteran and current U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka for his lifetime devotion to the church. Throughout the rest of the service we were treated to many unique experiences. We sang songs in English, Hawaiian, and Samoan, and were able to share communion in this historic church. Following the benediction, we met Senator Akaka who spoke to our veterans as if they had served together. He even apologized for only giving us 30 minutes of his time because he had to return to Washington D.C. to be present Monday when President Obama will award two Medals of Honor. Overall, our Sunday morning was a once in a lifetime experience, but the day had just begun.

After lunch we headed to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It was a humbling experience to drive through this hallowed ground and see the names of thousands who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Guy Piper had visited this cemetery in 1991 with his fellow Pearl Harbor survivors but today he told us of his wartime experiences and all the places where he had served our country. Our planned 45 minute stop quickly turned into a two-hour history class because of the numerous stories that poured forth from all our veterans.

Upon leaving the cemetery, our tour guide took us to several beautiful, natural sites that the island of Oahu offers. It was another great opportunity to hear from Guy. It brought back many great memories from his past and his stories made us laugh. One of the stops was at the beach where we were able to swim for a short time. Guy told us that it made him think about all the fun times he had when he as our age doing the same things. We are looking forward to the rest of our time here and can’t wait to hear more stories from our Guy.

Grace Goodrich and Weston Wiebe

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Mr. Jack Holman’s day started off great, never mind the fact that his luggage was still in Missouri, and he was still wearing the same purple shirt he had worn since we picked him up from the airport Thursday. As he walked outside, he looked to the sky and thanked God for a beautiful day. Mr. Holman’s mantra of keeping a positive attitude has been on display the entire trip.

As we arrived at Pearl Harbor this morning, Mr. Holman was eager to share his WWII journey. He told us exactly where he was on December 7, 1941, and even though his father, a World War I vet, warned him against volunteering, when Mr. Holman got his letter from President Roosevelt, he knew he had to do his part. As Mr. Holman shared his experiences from Normandy to Okinawa, we couldn’t help but notice how the horrors of war couldn’t shake his positive outlook on life.

Our next stop was the US Army Museum of Hawaii where Colonel Moon greeted us. The Colonel provided us with a great overview of the Pacific Theater, but what really stood out to us was when he asked if the veterans would take a picture with his two young sons. Here was an active duty Colonel who was genuinely excited and honored for his sons to meet our five veterans.

As the day ended, Mr. Holman’s sense of humor was on display during a luau at Paradise Cove. As we walked along the beach, Mr. Holman enjoyed fooling us all with his ventriloquism. But he also acted like a proud grandfather taking pictures and encouraging us as we tried our hand at spear-throwing and Hawaiian bowling. Along with another of our veterans, Mr. George Beden, Mr. Holman became an 87 year-old certified Hula dancer!

Through our journey, Mr. Holman has reminded us that our attitude makes all the difference in life. A positive attitude reflects on everything you do, even if your luggage is still in Missouri.

Brandolyn Hoagland and John Dye

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Lessons Learned"

After a night spent packing and saying goodbyes to our family and friends, our weariness at leaving campus at 3:30 am today was overcome by the excitement at the beginning of our journey in the Pacific theater with five amazing World War II veterans. “I could use some coffee,” echoed throughout the plane as the sound of the wind and the whine of the engines made many eyelids heavy. While looking down on our beautiful Ozarks, amazed at the images of flooded lakes and rivers, our thoughts turned to the Navy and the Marine veterans sitting nearby because this piece of ground called America would be a very different place had it not been for their hard work and sacrifice.

The veteran we are assigned to, Mr. George Beden, is an extremely energetic man who is always up before the sunrise. His and the other veteran’s lifestyles remind us of a quote by Benjamin Franklin--“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” One thing that we have noticed from these gentlemen in just a short time together is their work ethic. If it needs to be done, they do it without a second thought and without trying to delegate it to someone else, a lesson our fellow students would be well advised to learn.

During our eight hour flight to Hawaii, we continually were amazed at how many people appreciated our veterans, coming up to them and saying, “Thank you for serving this country,” which is another lesson we hope our fellow students learn and carry with them the rest of their lives. We know we will.

Elizabeth Wiley and Paul Harloff