Maui County students write to active-duty military personnel

Students from 15 Maui County schools have written letters that will be sent to active-duty military personnel in conjunction with a read aloud program by the National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks to educate students on the historical significance of Dec. 7, 1941.

At 3:15 p.m. today, the book “Across the Blue Pacific, A World War II Story,” about a 4th-grade girl who is given a classroom assignment of writing a letter to servicemen overseas, will be read at Maui Family YMCA sites.

Other schools and programs, including Kama’aina Kids, held activities during the week. Participating Maui County schools are Kahului, Kamalii, Kula, Paia, Princess Nahienaena, Pukalani, Waihee, Wailuku, King Kamehameha III, Haiku, Kihei, Lihikai, Pomaikai, Puu Kukui and Kilohana on Molokai.

The book being read to students discusses the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by the military.

Through the state Department of Education, Maui Family YMCA and Kama’aina Kids, students in Maui County and those across the state are learning about the real-life story of Lt. Theodore Walker, a submariner who served during World War II.

Walker and the crew of the USS Albacore died when their submarine struck a mine in the Pacific Ocean. In the book being read to the students, 4th-grader Molly Crenshaw plans to write her letter to her next-door neighbor, Walker, who is aboard the USS Albacore.

Every Dec. 7, thousands gather at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center on Oahu to pay tribute to the thousands of military service members and civilians who lost their lives in the 1941 attack, when Japanese naval forces bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack led the U.S. to declare war on Japan.

“Each year, the number of Pearl Harbor survivors attending our ceremony decreases, and we continue to lose many of these men as the years go by. It’s vital that their legacy and message of peace are shared with future generations. One of the best ways to do this is through storytelling. Our read aloud program allows us to do this by reaching thousands of children throughout the state,” said National Park Service Superintendent Paul DePrey.

This week, students from various schools wrote letters that were decorated with drawings of Christmas trees, American flags and Hawaii scenes of beaches, palm trees, sunshine and blue skies.

Kaliya Javier , a 10-year-old from Pomaikai Elementary School, wrote: “Thank you so much for protecting us. I’m glad you made it through the war.”

Nathaniel Kerzicnik, also 10, of Pomaikai, wrote: “You’re my hero.”

He drew a bulletproof vest, saying it symbolized what American soldiers mean to him.

“I think they protect us so we can go on living in Hawaii,” he wrote.

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.