NATIONAL AWARD: U.S. Army Hawaii
The Total Army Family in Hawaii made a real difference to the residents of Oahu on Make A Difference Day 2000. More than 2,100 Soldiers, family members and Department of Army civilians from the 25th Infantry Division (Light), the United States Army, Hawaii, U.S. Army Pacific and associated commands donated in excess of 11,000 man hours and participated in more than 100 projects located throughout the island of Oahu.
Army, Marine and Air Force volunteers came aboard the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in a major restoration project. Volunteers sanded, chipped paint, removed rust, and painted the interior and exterior of the ship. They provided electrical skills, stenciled, emptied and refilled sea containers, repaired doors and doorways, installed conduits, removed vents, secured bunks, and polished brass. Army soldiers and families repaired the ship's teak deck, removed rust and old paint from the pier then repainted it, and began the laborious restoration of the ship's library.
The interaction between civilians, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and family members that day not only helped to restore an important monument but it also helped re-establish a bond between the military agencies and the residents of Oahu and promoted a sense of national pride in the restoration of one of America's national treasures.
MG William Ward, Commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and US Army, Hawaii, and his wife, Mrs. Joyce Ward showed their support of these dedicated volunteers. After greeting the incoming Commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light), MG James Dubik, at Honolulu International Airport, the Wards stopped by the ship and visited the Army team. General Ward announced to all the Make A Difference Day volunteers that their participation and effort was truly a "One Team" success story.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and the United States Army, Hawaii participated in projects, which underscored their unique talents and experience. More than 120 volunteers contributed to the Army's major clean-up effort at Diamond Head Crater and park located above the south facing shores of Oahu. Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-27 Infantry, began preparing for the treacherous jump weeks before the event. Then, at 0500, they swarmed over the inactive crater and rappelled off the steep slopes where they picked up trash and debris in areas that are normally impossible to access. While the rappellers were precariously hanging off the precipice, other Soldiers were inside the crater removing garbage from the park area. These men and women spent more than 6 hours at the sight, assisting the State's Department of Parks in the maintenance of a very treacherous area proving that their commitment to their Hawaii neighbors was a priority in their lives.
Another major restoration project was spearheaded by 23 Soldiers from the 196th Infantry Brigade, in partnership with 7 teen family members from Army Youth Sports at the Na Ala Hele Trails in Central Oahu. The trails suffered extensive erosion damage. Soldiers and teens lugged materials, tools, sand, plants and water by hand and with a freighter pack up the one-mile trailhead in Pacific Palisades. In one area, a grassy footpath was created where a muddy rut had once existed. Soldiers dug close to 4 inches of ground and positioned donated geo-textile materials in the trench. The soil was replaced then topsoil, sand and grass seed was added. The group also installed several new erosion barriers, planted more than 30 native species plants, and repaired many of the existing erosion barriers.
Almost 200 Soldiers and family members from the 25th Infantry Division Support Command (DISCOM) joined students from the local high schools. They removed trash and fought erosion by planting shrubbery along the steep cliffs and hillsides at Wahiawa Botanical Gardens in Central Oahu. Hawaii State Representative, Marcus Oshiro, provided the soldiers and families a special Hawaiian-style luncheon. Mr. Oshiro stated that this was the largest group to participate in such a massive effort in the Botanical Gardens.
Forty-one Soldiers, family members and Department of Army Civilians from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, United States Army Pacific (HHC USARPAC); Dental Activity (DENTAC); the Fort Shafter Military Police; HHC 25th Infantry Division (Light); the Army's Hawaii Regional Flight Center; HHC 516th Signal; the Directorate of Community Activities (DCA); and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER) brought their talents and resources to Kokua Kalihi Valley (KKV), a social service agency near Honolulu. The military community at Ft. Shafter wanted to show KKV that they are committed to improving the conditions in the surrounding community. As 1SG Vicki Cozy stated, "We're neighbors here - Fort Shafter and this area right here. Being part of this neighborhood is important".
Kokua Kalihi Valley Center is located immediately outside the gates of Fort Shafter, the home of the United States Army, Pacific. It is a community health center with free or reduced fees for anyone who lives within the center's service area. The medical, dental, outreach, and youth services facility supports and treats a combined population of more than 25,000 residents mainly of Filipino, Japanese, Samoan, Hawaiian, and Chinese descent, most of whom do not speak English.
On Make A Difference Day, Army volunteers from the Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks commands joined with KKV staff and community residents to improve the conditions of the center's 14,000 square foot, 30 year old operations building, and give it new life by re-painting the graffiti-damaged exterior. Mr. Jory Watland, Executive Director of KKV told the local news, "I think it made all the difference in the world. I don't think we could've got the building done anytime in the near future".
The Army's project at Kokua Kalihi Valley not only benefited the civilian community of Kalihi, but it also provided the soldiers with a greater sense of assimilation. As Michael Epp( KKV's Development Officer) stated, the KKV alliance with the Army on Make A Difference Day is "an effort to bring the military in closer collaboration with the community. Often times, they can get a stronger sense of belonging in place, rather than just passing through the islands".
Volunteers also participated in social service projects that day. One volunteer from DCA spent her first hour reading to high school students to help improve their reading comprehension, then was asked by KKV staff to relocate and read to young children, to help improve their listening skills and for their pure entertainment. The very disappointed teens invited her back the following weekend to continue their reading "session"!
The partnership that developed between the Army community and the residents of Kokua Kalihi Valley on Make A Difference Day is expected to be long-term as individuals have already volunteered to for more projects. The most important result of the project is the establishment of a sense of camaraderie between the island's temporary military residents and the residents of this incredibly diverse civilian community.
On Leeward Oahu, hundreds of soldiers from the 45th Corps Support Group paired up with local high school students from Waianae to stencil storm drains with warnings against dumping waste. The volunteers also removed trash from beaches and supported an annual community festival.
Approximately 12 teens from the Aliamanu and Ft. Shafter area TEEN 2000 program and 18 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1-21 Infantry Division ("Wolfhounds") made a difference in the sheltered lives of a dozen wheelchair-bound residents of Kuakini Hospital by pushing these non-ambulatory seniors up Mount Tantalus, enjoying a nature walk, picnic and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and the South Shore of Oahu. The teens, soldiers and the senior citizens all participated in the camaraderie of Make A Difference Day and were able to share their youth, wisdom, and the diversity of cultures while enjoying the beauty of the flora and fauna of Hawaii. Mrs. Setsue Abe, a Kuakini shut-in resident was overwhelmed with the splendor of the landscape and grateful for the opportunity to share the experience with these youth. "I didn't expect anything like this," she said. "I'm so surprised and happy that I can see all of this." The event took some of the pain out of the lives of some of Hawaii's elders. "It was such a pleasure, it was a good party," Hokma Assan said. "I would love to come again. Even though I was in pain, it was fun."
Although Hawaii is our 50th State, many soldiers assigned here are unfamiliar with the varied cultures and traditions of the islands. The interaction on Make A Difference Day allowed both the military members and the elders to share their wisdom and experience. Specialist Leon from the 1-21 Infantry stated, "I appreciated the opportunity to interact with different cultures and the stories that were told." The nature walk also provided an important lesson in the annals of the people of Hawaii. LT George Coan stated, "I like learning about the Hawaiian history and culture. It's beautiful up here."
The entire Tantalus experience is best described by Alandria Fields, an Aliamanu TEEN2000 member , who said, "I liked seeing the elderly happy. The soldiers were nice, too. I felt happier and more peaceful about myself because I did something very good. I would love to do this again." Nathanial Crane summed up the day by saying, "This experience was meaningful to me because we got to help people, have fun and make a difference in our community for the good of the people." This diverse assortment of Americans truly shared the essence of Make A Difference Day.