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

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