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

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