Pearl Harbor survivors share time with Navy Hale Keiki students

Third grader Reilly Porado and Pearl Harbor survivor Tom Petso honor the fallen at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Third grader Reilly Porado and Pearl Harbor survivor Tom Petso honor the fallen at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Brister Thomas and Nikki Harris

Navy Hale Keiki School

History and social studies classes give students a chance to learn about important events and figures of the past, but rarely do they provide an opportunity for living history to be shared. Young students at Navy Hale Keiki School (NHKS) were given just that as they welcomed Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans to the island last week.

The Greatest Generations Foundation (TGGF) and Navy Hale Keiki School collaborated to cross the generations in honor and memory of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They participated in a series of events on Dec. 4 and 6 that many participants said changed their lives.

“This is certainly a ‘chicken skin’ experience for Navy Hale Keiki School staff, students and families. It is an incredible honor for our parents, most of whom currently serve in the military. This is an opportunity for us to have real role models, real American heroes for our children. It is the most beautiful gift we can give our students,” said Monique Raduziner, Navy Hale Keiki School principal.

Navy Hale Keiki School Patriot's Club member Ben Cieurzo escorts Arthur Staymates, a World War II veteran who served as a commanding officer during the Nuremberg Trials.

Navy Hale Keiki School Patriot’s Club member Ben Cieurzo escorts Arthur Staymates, a World War II veteran who served as a commanding officer during the Nuremberg Trials.

Raduziner, and The Greatest Generations Foundation founder, Timothy Davis, arranged meetings at two venues — a small Sunday ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Dec. 4, and a luncheon and program Dec. 6 on the grounds of the school.

The Pearl Harbor survivors were escorted off the bus to their seats Dec. 4 at Punch-bowl by active-duty service members in their dress whites, parents of the military children who attend NHKS.

This was a quiet moment, shared with the youngest generation all the way to the Greatest Generation.They reflected on the day of Dec. 7, 1941, when Imperial Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor.

The survivors seated in the front rows listened to children of the school’s Patriot’s Club’s read seven biographies of fallen service members from the attack — one for each decade since 1941.

Members of the Navy Hale Keiki School Young Patriot's Club salute and welcome veterans to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Members of the Navy Hale Keiki School Young Patriot’s Club salute and welcome veterans to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

As the crowd stood to sing the national anthem, 97-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Peter “Harmonica Pete” Dupre stood up and led the music. Survivors held hands with the children to walk over to graves of fallen fellow service members from World War II and place flags by the graves. They concluded the day by watching the sun set over the hills of Camp Smith under the shade of a garrison American flag.

“This is the most meaningful experience that I have ever witnessed in honor of the attack on Pearl Harbor,” said Greatest Generations Foundation founder Davis.

The Dec. 6 ceremonies at NHKS started early for the school’s families, with a few students appearing on television news with Pearl Harbor survivor Mickey Ganitch.

Later that morning, 22 survivors and veterans arrived at the gates of Navy Hale Keiki School, visiting with children 3 years old through fourth grade.

“Watching the bus pull into the parking lot was electric. The kids were shaking with anticipation as they already have close bonds with these special men,” said Courtney Brown, NHKS student support specialist, military spouse, and parent of three children enrolled at the school.

Prekindergarten student Vivian Whitney high-fives Pearl Harbor survivor Mickey Ganitch. Ganitch has been a yearly visitor at Navy Hale Keiki School and friend of the school after he was honored as the NHKS Patriot's Club Heart of a Hero recipient. Photos by Brister Thomas

Prekindergarten student Vivian Whitney high-fives Pearl Harbor survivor Mickey Ganitch. Ganitch has been a yearly visitor at Navy Hale Keiki School and friend of the school after he was honored as the NHKS Patriot’s Club Heart of a Hero recipient. Photos by Brister Thomas

Participants paraded onto school grounds to join in the daily flag raising and say the Pledge of Allegiance. More than 400 people from ages 3 to 103 joined in the ceremony.

Navy Hale Keiki families and students met in the courtyard again for lunch and a performance by kindergarten through fourth grade students. Patriotic songs entertained the veterans.

Some songs were emotional, like the fourth graders’ “You’re a Hero,” a song dedicated to the brave men and women who have served. Others were energizing, inspiring dances and hurrahs from the crowd, such the “Armed Forces Melody.”

Alumni Jeffrey T. Long, who attended NHKS in the late 1950s attended the Dec. 6 ceremony at the school.

“My wife, Jaime and I were touched by the illuminated faces of the children as they engaged with the Pearl Harbor survivors. These students are our future and will carry the torch of freedom forward. It was a patriotic moment that not all schools share and I was incredibly proud to witness it first hand,” Long said.

Pearl Harbor survivors also visited classrooms, recounting their tales of Pearl Harbor and World War II with the young children. Students asked them questions about the attack, the war, and their individual experiences.

The day’s events concluded with the dedication of the school’s Greatest Generation Garden, commemorated with a tree-planting ceremony and the placement of a time capsule to be opened on the 100th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

“It is important for the survivors to share a quiet moment with the young students. We want to emphasize that these students believe in these veterans and to truly relay that their sacrifices will be remembered,” Raduziner said.

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Category: Life & Leisure