When Jennifer Hirakawa, owner of Kawa Farms and K-9 Training in Iowa, learned she would be attending canine training at Fort Riley April 26 through 28, she knew she had another mission to accomplish.
Master Sgt. Hirakawa retired from the Military Police Corps in 2012. For most of her career, she carted around with her a piece of memorabilia she had picked up in Germany.
From 1991 through 1994, she was assigned to the 287 MP Company when they were in charge of manning Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
After the Berlin Wall came down, all of the foreign armies were leaving. American forces would be among the last to go, she said. She was one of the last five or six MPs to leave Berlin. By the time she did, the Germans had taken ownership of the military buildings.
"They had taken all of the stuff that we left behind," she said. "It was all just in this big warehouse room."
In that room, she saw the handmade wooden cross pistols that had hung above the company entrance. They had been there to greet her every day -- she couldn't walk away and leave them.
"We asked the foreman from the German construction company, what they were going to do with (the stuff in the warehouse), and he said they were going to throw it away," she said. "We asked him if we could have some of it. And he said, 'sure, take what you want.' And so, we did. The only real thing that I took was the cross."
As a young Soldier, she loved the MP Corps and that plaque was meaningful to her. For the rest of her 23-year career, those crossed pistols hung in the hallway of every house she lived in.
When she retired, it was time for them to retire as well.
"I made it my mission that someday I would send them home," she said.
She finally had that opportunity on April 26. While the rest of the canine group broke for lunch, she brought the cross pistols to the 287th MP Co., where there is already a spot chosen for them to be hung.
First Sgt. Mylls Cheffey was excited to have them. He has a passion for the history of the company and has for years reached out to former members looking for memorabilia to add to their mini museum.
"I've tried to reach out to people who have been in the unit because the unit has a rich history, especially in the Berlin Brigade, which was one of the last brigades to stand between East and West Germany," he said. "This company manned the famous checkpoint known as Checkpoint Charlie, and on our last rotation to Europe, we were able to meet a lot of people and reach out and get some artifacts from them. I think it's important that (we) do that."
Having the cross pistols back with the company gives new MPs a visual reminder of the proud heritage they are now part of, he said.
"It is important, not only for the organization, but for Soldiers who are in the organization to realize this unit's been around for a while and it is steeped in history," he said. "And they are going to continue to be a legacy with it."
Cheffey said he appreciated that when Hirakawa was a young MP, she had enough insight to recognize the piece of wood that was about to be discarded was more than just a thing to hang on the wall.
"It may not seem like a lot to a lot of people, but it's something that if she would have not grabbed it, it wouldn't be around, it would just be another thing in a landfill somewhere," he said. "It's important because a lot of Soldiers rallied around this item. It's something they saw on a daily basis. Now, it's back at the company and it can still be seen by the Soldiers of the 287th."