By Sgt. Mike AlbertsAugust 1, 2008
"Look, look," said Taiki emerging from the ocean, his black cropped hair dripping across his forehead. With arms outstretched, he pointed toward movement in the shallows.
"A black fish!" exclaimed his younger friend Shunpei as both boys waded slowly behind the tiny creature.
Moments later, Mika was screaming, "I'm doing it. I'm surfing." Looking on, Emiri - goggled and grinning -- raised her hands above her head toward Mika gesturing her approval at the accomplishment.
Taiki, Shunpei, Mika and Emiri are four Japanese children from the Holy Family Home Orphanage in Osaka, Japan being hosted to a 10-day trip of a lifetime by "Wolfhound" Soldiers of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, continuing a tradition that began half a century ago.
On Christmas Day, 1949, Honorary Sgt. Maj. Hugh F. X. O'Reilly, a "buck" sergeant at the time, and a dozen other Wolfhound Soldiers visited the Holy Family Home Orphanage in Osaka, Japan, as part of a Red Cross outreach mission. Contributions to the orphanage continued and Wolfhounds have provided funds to bring children from the orphanage to visit Soldiers and their families in Hawaii every year since 1957.
Each year, select children are nominated for the trip by their orphanage case workers. The nominations are based upon a variety of factors to include a child's behavior, effort in school, cooperative nature and whether a child's particular experience in Hawaii would provide an opportunity for personal growth. Ultimately, the orphanage director, assistant director and case workers select the four recipients.
Upon their arrival in Hawaii, the children are placed with volunteer host families. Over a ten-day period, the children's time is divided between organizational events and local attractions, as well as quieter family moments.
This years' planned attractions included a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, ocean fun at the Outrigger Canoe Club, the Hawaiian Water Adventure Park and Honolulu Zoo. The children also experienced a day of picnicking and outdoor games at the Wolfhound's annual "Regimental Day" held at Schofield Barracks' Stoneman Field.
The majority of the children's time, however, is spent in quieter moments with their host families. For the children, time with their host family is a time to be the center of attention, a position that the orphans seldom experience back home.
"The orphanage is a comfortable place, but it's large and the younger children typically must cater to the desires of the older ones, kinda like it might be in a very large American family with multiple siblings," explained Sgt. 1st Class Richard Hostrop, volunteer interpreter and former Wolfhound who visited the orphanage on previous tours of duty.
"These four children are ten and eleven years old, probably the younger ones in their [child care units] back in Japan. So, for them to go to an ice cream parlor and actually choose their flavor of ice cream is a big deal," said Hostrop.
Aime Honeycutt, a volunteer host and wife of Capt. Jason Honeycutt, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, confirmed Hostrop's observation.
"To see the girls' faces light up when we simply took them to an ice cream parlor is something I will never forget," she said. "It was the same look I see on my girls' faces on Christmas morning. We'll truly miss them."
As for the Taiki, Shunpei, Mika and Emiri, they'll never forget the ocean. Their favorite experience'
"Swimming," said the outspoken Shunpei, for the group. "We also like the palm trees." His three young companions nodded in agreement.