Jack Holman, retired professional scouter for the Boy Scouts of America and Navy veteran, has been very busy traveling from Baton Rouge to Branson, Missouri to Hawaii.
At each destination he was greeted with thanks, appreciation and respect.
"I have never had such a welcome in my life," Holman said of his trip to Hawaii. "It is the most interesting trip I have ever made."
Holman is 87 years old and was invited to attend a trip to Okinawa Japan in April for his efforts during World War II where he served in the Navy from 1943 until 1946.
The trip to Okinawa was canceled due to the earthquake and tsunami that made travel to Japan potentially hazardous. Instead, the group of five veterans, faculty and students of College of the Ozarks traveled to Pearl Harbor, where experiences and growth opportunities were shared.
The trip began with a drive to Branson, Missouri where Holman and his wife Mieke ate dinner with President George W. Bush. In Holman's honor, a Sugar Maple tree and bronze plaque were placed in front of the Keeter Center on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.
The college paid for all Holman's travel and entertainment expenses, including entertainment in Branson, Missouri, flight to and returning from Hawaii and hotel accommodations.
Each of the five veterans on the trip were assigned two students from the college. The students kept a record of the trip via blog, which can be found at http://cofopearlharbortrip.blogspot.com
Brandolyn Hoagland and John Dye, Holman's assigned students, said the trip to Pearl Harbor has had a great influence on their lives.
"We have learned more in this one week, from these five men, than we ever thought possible. They have taught us the importance of honor, duty, courage and respect," the blog reads. "Our perspective of those who serve our sacred nation has been forever changed.
"Because of this experience, we will never be able to pass a member of our military without showing the gratitude they deserve," it continues. "As we go from here, it is our duty and our honor to keep the legacy of the greatest generation alive for the next generation."
Holman traveled to Baton Rouge in April to present the keynote address to the graduates of Southern University's NROTC program. His address focused on attitude.
He noted that a positive attitude in the most dire, stressful or seemingly overwhelming circumstances can make the difference between success and failure.
Holman's own attitude was noted by others on the trip to Hawaii.
"Holman's day started off great, never mind the fact that his luggage was still in Missouri," the blog reads. "Through our journey, Mr. Holman has reminded us that our attitude makes all the difference in life. A positive attitude reflects on everything you do, even if your luggage is still in Missouri."
Students on the trip interviewed the veterans three nights with a focus on their pre-war, wartime and post war experiences.
There was a time on the trip where students and faculty were asked to leave a room full of veterans to themselves.
"It was us old veterans," Holman said. "We were meeting with a group of young veterans, who had really come across some difficulties."
Some of the young veterans incurred damage to their bodies while serving their country.
"One young guy, in his 20's, had his leg blown off and showed us his stub," Holman said. "Another lifted his shirt and showed us the shrapnel he had in his chest- was just blown all to pieces, but he is living. But he is having to live with the physical damage."
The group of veterans spoke in private, sharing stories, asking questions and offering encouragement.
"You know I was really lucky," Holman said. "I came out (of the war) without a scratch on me, and I told those young guys that.
"I told them I had fought in a war – even if it was a different time," he continued. "My suggestion to them was to share it.
"We would share D-day or an airplane being shot down and turn it loose. These guys have it all cooped up inside," Holman said. "I could only encourage them to share. Share it at college; share it at work or wherever they could find to tell people about their experiences. Get it out."
"You can go nuts if you won't talk about it," Holman concluded.
The trip that included a tour of Oahu military historical sites, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Admiral's Tour of Ford Island, Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri extended tour, spear throwing and a luau contest, which Holman was awarded a certificate in.
Holman and the other veterans touched many lives on the trip to Pearl Harbor.
Cards signed by the students read sentiments including, "I can't explain how much you mean to me... you are such a blessing... I have enjoyed your jokes, stories and experiences so very much."
Holman had many wonderful things to say about the trip, the college of the Ozarks and the experiences he had. He also said that there is nothing special about him.
"We veterans were surprised to get such treatment," he said. "Very few veterans think of themselves as heroes.
"Those in the Navy think of the ship as the hero, not the sailor," he continued. "We (veterans) do not expect thanks, and it was so surprising to see people on the trip thank us as they passed by and to have so much respect from the students."
Holman attained the non-commissioned rank of Fire Controlman Second Class Petty Officer onboard the destroyer USS HOBSON, the lead ship for the Utah Beachhead at Normandy on D-Day. HOBSON took Holman to Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day, southern France for the invasion, the sinking of U- 571 and to Okinawa, Japan in the Pacific Theatre where his ship was under daily Kamikaze attacks.
In the blog, students noted Holman's perspective on life.
"As we arrived at Pearl Harbor this morning, Mr. Holman was eager to share his WWII journey. He told us exactly where he was on December 7, 1941, and even though his father, a World War I vet, warned him against volunteering, when Mr. Holman got his letter from President Roosevelt, he knew he had to do his part," it reads. "As Mr. Holman shared his experiences from Normandy to Okinawa, we couldn't help but notice how the horrors of war couldn't shake his positive outlook on life."