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Two Pearls of Pearl Harbor

Have you ever had the joy of doing one of the things you’ve always wanted to do? Some may say, “to check something off your bucket list”? For two high school girls in Campus Care in Decatur, Mandy* and Oni*, they don’t have a bucket list written, per se, but in the midst of their busy days of school, church, playing softball, and singing, they do have dreams.

One of those dreams came true, thanks in part to their hard work to raise funds, and in part to our generous donors who funded half of each girl’s trip to Hawaii, as they traveled there last December with their school choir to perform at the Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary Commemoration Service!

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What began as pure excitement over the idea of traveling to this dream-come-true destination with the trees, the flowers, the water, and more—all things Mandy and Oni were excited to see, soon turned into something far more memorable and meaningful. They were immersed in a new culture with new learning experiences for a week in the tropical paradise of Oahu, “The Gathering Place.”

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Mandy, seen here overlooking the Hawaiian waters

 

People indeed gathered from all across the globe to “honor the past and inspire the future” as they celebrated the lives of fallen veterans and those surviving. Mandy said of the service, “We sung with a few other schools from Florida and California and with a barbershop quartet too. The mayor talked and so did some of the survivors. Some though, were too old to speak so someone spoke for them. And then there was one man who was 100 and spoke like he was 20! I need to know what he did so I can be like that!”

Mandy said, “I was amazed, being there. You could tell right away you were in Hawaii, and it smelled like flowers! And the food—everything had pineapple! Hamburgers even. There were a lot of macadamia nuts and pineapple farms.” Oni chimed in, “And the pineapple was FRESH and it was so good.”   

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When it came to general tourist activities that they got to enjoy, Mandy says the luau was her favorite part, “You got to see all kinds of different cultures, and there’s so much history.”

Oni said that in addition to attending a luau (and dancing the hula on stage!) and touring a macadamia nut farm, another highlight for them was being in the Pearl Harbor parade, “We sang the national anthem and then got to walk in the parade, coming in behind the veterans.”  

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And they loved getting to see and meet some of the veterans. “It was very emotional to see them,” said Oni. “In the parade, they were crying. I think they were really happy. One of them was being pushed in a wheelchair, and he stopped and started waving, and the guy pushing him looked around and said, ‘Look at all your fans!’ and then he just started crying . . . it made me cry.”

The girls were able to spend a lot of time touring the USS Missouri and literally walked through history. “I (Mandy) never thought about history like that until we got on the ship and they started talking about it, and I was like, wow, this really happened. It was more than I thought it would be. You could see all the notes they had written home. That was my favorite thing—actually being on the ship and reading their notes at the same time. It was so awesome. I started crying reading them, just imagining them wanting to go home.”  

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Overall, being there to them was “amazing.” One of the men who helped support their trip, who also shares their sentiment, is Ron Musgrove, a third-generation ABCH supporter. When he heard about this opportunity for the girls, he knew he wanted to be a part of their experience by giving. For him, it was personal, as his dad was a Pearl Harbor survivor. 

Ron shares that though he never really knew his dad, he said, “A few years ago, I had the chance to visit Pearl Harbor with my wife, Debbie. It was amazing for me to be there, knowing my father had been there 70 years earlier. It was great to get to walk through an idea of some of what he experienced. I wanted to be a part of helping these girls travel there too, to help honor my father’s service.”

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Mandy and Oni know that this trip was one that God provided. “I’m glad he gave me the opportunity to go, shares Oni. They both expressed that had they been “home”, before coming to ABCH, they would have never even considered the possibility of doing something like this. “I don’t think my brain would have let me get outside the walls. Neither of us would have never had this chance. Ever.”

And on that note, they wanted to say a big thank you to our donors; both for helping with their trip and in their everyday . . .

“I just want to say thank you. Your help was a humongous help for us! If it wouldn’t have been for you, we would have had to raise all of the money to go, and we probably wouldn’t have been able to. We are blessed,” said Mandy. “Not many kids get out of the situations like we’ve been in. I’m just glad God took us out of those situations. We are super blessed.”

Feeling the weight of that truth, with tears dotting her eyes, Oni added, “Thank you. And I hope God blesses you. I’ve been blessed just to have the opportunity to go. If I wasn’t here (at ABCH), I don’t know where I’d be.” 

 

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

A special thank you to Mandy, for sharing her trip photos here with us!

This story was originally featured in our 2016 Annual Report.

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