In October of 2015, the then third-year NJROTC cadets of Highland High School presented an idea of travelling to Hawaii to personally witness and be a part of the 75th Pearl Harbor Day ceremony.
Though supported by the school, this idea, while perfectly attainable, seemed insurmountable for a small, rural high school in Morrow County, Ohio. Together, the ideas and plans to raise funds came together. Cadets drafted letters to local businesses detailing their desire and asking for donations to support the cause. Many local business owners gladly answered the call.
Additionally, cadets manned fundraising booths at sporting events, donated their hard-earned summer trapshooting money, and grew and sold Fall mums to support the cause. They received a gracious donation from the local VFW. And, they benefitted tremendously from the generous donations of teachers, staff, parents, and friends of Highland High School. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was quickly coming to fruition.
In late September of 2016 with one final local donation it was apparent this trip was a reality. Plans were made, Carson Travel assisted with the ticketing and nine cadets, one instructor, and one chaperone were booked on a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii 5-9 December, 2016. Seven of the nine cadets had never flown prior so the trip would be educational from start to finish. Leaving Ohio in December for Hawaii is not difficult, coming back may prove harder.
Through Navy connections, support from Navy Hawaii Region leadership, and generous donations of time by many, Highland Cadets could truly experience Pearl Harbor, Hawaii first-hand. Cadets stayed at the Navy Gateway Inn onboard Pearl Harbor Naval Station. They could eat at the Pearl Harbor Galley. Simply stepping outside of their room allowed them views of Pearl Harbor. A 100 yard walk took them pier side to where many active duty destroyers were docked.
Cadets were partially sponsored by USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG-53). Command Master Chief Rich Terrell donated a full day and some of his finest Sailors to provide a wonderful tour on Tuesday, 6 December. Cadets received an in-depth tour of USS MISSOURI (BB-63) to include the inside of turret #1, the boiler room and the surrender deck. They then spent the afternoon aboard JOHN PAUL JONES receiving a full tour and enjoying lunch with JOHN PAUL JONES crew. The evening allowed for a waterside tour around Pearl Harbor via Commander, Pacific Fleet Admiral’s Gig. This tour allowed water access to many memorials and specifically allowed cadets to spend time at the USS ARIZONA (BB-39) memorial where the single largest loss of life occurred at Pearl Harbor. The entire day was a sobering and educational experience for all.
December saw the cadets in formation on the fantail of JOHN PAUL JONES at 0800 as morning colors were raised during a silent colors ceremony. At the same time cadets witnessed a missing-man flyover of Pearl Harbor and the USS HALSEY (DDG-97) render honors to the USS ARIZONA memorial – hearts were heavy. Late afternoon had cadets performing as ushers during a formal ceremony at the USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) memorial on Ford Island. Cadets met and spoke with USS OKLAHOMA survivors to include Ray “Papa” Richmond, a 98-year old survivor. They also met and talked with Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift and Fleet Master Chief Susan Whitman. The day was a full day of heartfelt education. The evening concluded in a traditional luau at Germaine’s on the west end of the island of Oahu.
Dec. 8 cadets rose at 0415 to climb Koko Head in hopes of seeing the sunrise from the eastern horizon. Koko Head is the remains of a volcanic crater. 60 years ago, a military lookout with bunkers was built at the top. Railroad ties and tracks were installed straight up to allow supplies to be towed up. Today it is a climb of 1,048 steps (railroad ties). All cadets made the climb. The weather didn’t allow for viewing the sunset but the early morning climb was a hit. Due to rainy weather cadets received a complete tour of the island to include pail Lookout, the north shore, and a drive by Kolekole Pass (believed to be the pass Japanese planes flew through when attacking Peral Harbor.) They enjoyed some shave ice in Haleiwa (a must-do for tourist.) The evening saw a semi-formal dinner at Sam Choy’s aboard Hickam Air Force base.
Dec. 9 brought better weather and cadets finally had time for some Hawaii sand and water. A visit to Hanauma Bay provided fantastic snorkeling, sand, and a beach.
As final closure, directly before reporting to the airport cadets visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu. This visit, though emotional placed a bow on a fantastically educational life-experience for these cadets.
Cadets arrived safely back to sub-zero wind chills at John Glen Columbus International Airport on Saturday, 10 December. On behalf of Cadets Regan Smith, Tyler Tipton, Caleb Roush, Taylor Thornton, Abby White, Michael Cox, Vinny Wiley, Davin Fuchs, and Dustin Horn; thank you for your support and assistance in making this trip a reality.
North Shore (Cadets visit the North Shore of Oahu):
Michael Cox, Vinny Wiley, Abby White, Taylor Thornton, Tyler Tipton, Caleb Roush, Davin Fuchs, Regan Smith, Dustin Horn.
Admiral Scoot Swift, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, Cadets (l-r front): Abby White, Regan Smith, Dustin Horn, Tyler Tipton. (l-r rear): Caleb Roush, Vinny Wiley, Taylor Thornton, Davin Fuchs, Michael Cox.