On Friday, Dec. 6, 15 Maui County schools participated with over 8,000-plus school children across the state in the National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks' second annual Read Aloud Event in remembrance of the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor attack.
Through the state Department of Education, Maui Family YMCA, and Kama'aina Kids, students participating in this Read Aloud program learned about the real-life story of Lt. Theodore Walker, a submariner who served during World War II.
Lt. Walker and the entire crew of the "USS Albacore" perished when their submarine struck a mine in the Pacific. The book, "Across the Blue Pacific, A World War II Story," follows fourth-grader Molly Crenshaw, who is given the assignment of writing a letter to servicemen overseas. Molly immediately knows who she will write to--her next-door neighbor, Ted Walker, who is stationed aboard the "USS Albacore."
Pōmaika‘i Elementary School fourth-graders Logan Tsukiyama (left) and Sophia Otsuka look through “Across the Blue Pacific” after a statewide read-aloud of Louise Borden’s book commemorating the Dec. 7 sacrifice of thousands of military service members and civilians who lost their lives in the name of freedom in 1941. “You have to be brave in the war and you have to be willing to sacrifice,” Logan said about American soldiers.
Photo: Linn Nishikawa
The story illustrates the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by the military.
As part of this year's program, students also wrote letters to military personnel, which were delivered to active duty military through the U.S. Navy.
This year's program reached 2,000 more children than last year's event. In Maui County, the number of participating schools increased from five in 2012 to 15 this year.
Participating Maui County schools were King Kamehameha III, Kahului, Kamali'i, Kula, Pa'ia, Nahienaena, Pukalani, Waihe'e, Wailuku, Ha'iku, Kihei, Lihikai, Pomaika'i, Pu'u Kukui and Kilohana Elementary School on Molokai.
"We were very excited to be able to share with our islands' youth this heart-warming story about Pearl Harbor," said Jason Justus, Maui Family YMCA senior program director. "When you combine this reading aloud program with our youth connecting to active duty military through letter writing, it really brings home the reality of how much sacrifice the brave men and women serving and protecting our country make each day and how very fortunate we are."
At Pomaika'i Elementary School, Justus encouraged the fourth- and fifth-graders at the read-aloud to talk to relatives who may have memories of World War II.
"It was history and a huge part of history," he said. "Hopefully, it'll never, never happen again."
Pomaika'i Elementary School fifth-grader Na'u is the son of Sgt. Christian Hett, a Hawai'i National Guard diesel mechanic who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Na'u said he was always appreciative of the mission his father set out to do, but, "It's really frustrating," Na'u said about his family life when his dad is away. He said family trips to the beach are limited, and he, his two siblings and his mom are forced to stay close to home. "My mom's the only parent in the house, so we have to be good and be safe."
Fifth-grader Kaliya Javier said she's had relatives serve in both World War I and II, and she's grateful all of them were able to return home after their service.
"Across the Blue Pacific" is an interesting story, Kaliya said, because "it shows the military risks their lives to protect us."
Kami Echiverri, 10, said she was grateful for the service of American soldiers in all wars. "I really want to thank them for protecting our lives and making sure we have rights."
Fifth-grader Logan Tsukiyama said the story demonstrated for her the true character of an American soldier. "You have to be brave and you have to be willing to sacrifice," she said. Logan said she realizes that soldiers have to travel far and away from their homes to serve.
Pacific Historic Parks purchased 180 copies of the book to donate to each participating school. Pacific Historic Parks, a cooperating association that assists the National Park Service, supports the education, preservation, development and interpretation of four National Park-managed historic sites throughout the Pacific, including Pearl Harbor.
As part of its Read Aloud program, the National Park Service has posted several real-life letters written during World War II by civilians and military personnel for parents to read to their children at www.nps.gov/valr/forkids.
"Across the Blue Pacific, A World War II Story," is a children's book written by Louis Borden. Borden has written many award-winning children's books, including "His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg" (a three-time award winner), "The Journey That Saved Curious George" and "The Greatest Skating Race." Many of Borden's books chronicle significant historical events, written for children, with story lines that involve a child.