Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Tropical Vacation

Through my admiration for such determination, a strong desire on my part to tell their story, and their kind generosity, we set into motion plans to visit them in Maui.
We had been in the air close to five hours. After having left Atlanta around mid-morning; we were in hot pursuit of the sun, chasing it on its westerly journey. We caught and passed it before our arrival in Los Angeles. However with a four hour layover in that airport, the chase for the sun was on again, this time across the great Pacific Ocean.
Nearly five hours later, daylight clung precariously over the tropical isle. We were just under half an hour from “paradise.” As the pilot began his descent, the lights of the beautiful island winked at the load of travel weary passengers, beckoning us to come on down. Awaiting our arrival was Norman and Margie Kay with the traditional Hawaiian lei to drape around our necks, followed by a kiss of welcome.

Early the next morning, thunder awakened me with a start. Rubbing my eyes, I could see the pink numbers of the clock informing me that it was only ten minutes past four, nine o’clock in our hometown of Hawkinsville. Sheila lay quietly beside me, her breathing barely discernible. Again and again the thunder roared, but seemingly too much in rhythm. Without rising, I suddenly realized the thunder boomers were not accompanied by bright flashes of lightning. It was only then, I realized the “thunder” was not from the heavens above; rather it was the incessant pounding of the Pacific surf against the sea wall, only a few feet from the condominium where we were sleeping.
Gazing from the building’s glass enclosed front, which faced the ocean, two coconut palm trees stood guard over the small lush-green lawn. Bent slightly, twisted with time, and perhaps even groaning a little against the constant onslaught of the unforgiving trade winds, they, nonetheless, stood strong, never yielding their hallowed ground. With each gust of wind the long palm fronds danced in the breeze, alternating between waving and merely hanging, dripping the salty mist of the sea.
A short time later, on the lanai, Sheila and I dined on fresh pineapple, papaya, bananas in cream, soft scrambled eggs and toast; though our island hosts deny any complicity, there was a beautiful “end to end” rainbow which appeared during our meal as if to emphasize that we were indeed in “paradise.”
Our dream vacation began with an invitation one day that fall from Norm and Margie in Hawkinsville. As we enjoyed lunch with them, Margie said. “We want y’all to come visit us in Maui,”

“That’s very nice.” I replied. “Maybe we will someday.”
“Sheila and I will work out all the details,” she said.
That was in September, and quite frankly, I had not thought about it any further until the bitter cold weather hit Hawkinsville in January. Sheila said, “We have a letter from Margie Kay in Maui.”
In the letter was information about their island paradise, and an invitation to visit them and to be their guest in their ocean front condo. The rest, as they say, is history.
The next day after our arrival, our wonderful hosts began to show us their magical paradise with a trip to the Maui Ocean Center, the Hawaiian Aquarium. Already mesmerized by the humpback whales swimming and jumping off shore, within plain sight of our ocean front condo, we were about to enter into a journey of discovery through the extraordinary underwater world that lies beyond Hawaii’s surf-ringed shores.

All of the marine life including some of the most unusual fish, coral and plants was a replica of what can be found around Hawaii. This writer saw fish which were previously seen by me only on computer screensavers. All kinds of fish from something named the Orangeband Surgeonfish, eels, and Milletseed Butterflyfish to huge Brown Stingray and Tiger Sharks. One could easily spend several hours in one of the world’s greatest aquariums. Our hosts were more than patient with us as we oooh’d and ahhh’d our way through the fantastic experience. It is a “must see” experience for anyone going to Maui on a vacation.
On our second day in paradise, we did a very American thing with a very Hawaiian flavor. We attended the College All Star Hula Bowl football game which was an all day affair that wound up full of excitement. Arriving at the stadium around noon, we stood in line for a short while talking to visitors from Nebraska and once the gates opened we did our version of a “tailgate party” while watching a pre-game show that was only the beginning of more to come. Having gotten away Saturday morning without turning on the television, we were saddened at the announcement of the crash of the Columbia space shuttle which claimed the lives of all those aboard. The officials of the Hula Bowl arranged for a “missing man” fly over by some helicopters to pay tribute to the astronauts.
Once the teams took the field, the excitement of seeing so many talented players on one field got the crowd into it. Unlike mainland contests where the teams would be named North and South, they instead were named KAI which means sea and AINA which means land. This was very appropriate since that is what one sees in Maui. Land and sea! Both teams were coached by big-time mentors. Larry Coker of the Miami Hurricanes guided the KAI team while Mack Brown, of the Texas Longhorns coached the AINA team. Although it was led throughout most of the game by the KIA team, the last five minutes of the last quarter was extremely exciting with the AINA team capturing two on side kickoffs which they quickly converted to touchdowns. With only a few seconds left in the game they managed a field goal to win the game. During the half-time show a special treat was presented by over 300 cheerleaders doing a hula dance followed by a stirring rendition of Lee Greenwood singing his famous tune of “God Bless the USA” Following the game was a sensational fireworks display. Thus far only two days of our vacation had taken place.

Another day should be planned to visit world famous Hana.
The two-lane Hana Highway parallels the tortuous lava-formed coastline, passing through forests and over streams and past waterfalls. After more than six hundred hard turns and fifty-six single-lane bridges, palm-bordered ranches, pineapple and sugarcane fields, red- and black-sand beaches, jungle and volcanic craters all converge at Hana. It is some of the most beautiful land on earth and well worth the effort to see it.
Not far from there are the gravesides of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator and his friend, Sam Pryor, author of “All God’s Creatures.” Pryor and his wife and Lindbergh are all three buried in a small church cemetery.

Whether one goes to Maui to see the sights, shows or swim and surf in the ocean, it certainly is a wonderful experience and I can highly recommend it to one and all. We will be forever grateful to our friends, Norman and Margie Kay for their wonderful hospitality while we learned of their paradise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beyond the Call of Duty

More Stories of Hawkinsville, Georgia

During World War Two, over 16,000,000 Americans served in the gallant effort to defeat the military might of Germany, Italy and Japan. Today, there are approximately 3,000,000 veterans of the conflict left. Estimates put the current loss, through death, at somewhere between 1,200 to 1,500 per day. Add to that number 400,000 who died in WWII, and the math shows us that over 13 and a half million of our WWII veterans are deceased.
History was made when city boys, and farm boys alike, volunteered—from all walks of life—after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese war machine. The Americans of that era have been called the Greatest Generation, and history has labeled them heroes, although most shun the label, claiming instead they were just doing a job which needed doing.
When Adolph Hitler began his quest to rule Europe, and when the Empire of the Rising Sun bombed Pearl Harbor, practically destroying the United States Navy, they had no idea what kind of men they would ultimately have to face before the end of what became World War II.
Tom Brokaw, longtime anchor news journalist for NBC Television, penned a best-selling book called The Greatest Generation in which he eloquently told the stories of so many veterans, those who survived as well as those who did not return home. The only problem with the book was that it could not tell all of the stories of WWII.
One of the great stories of the war involved five brothers. They were among the most famous of all the fighting men of World War II. The five Sullivan brothers, serving together in the Pacific, symbolized America's commitment to winning the war. But their deaths caused outrage and forced the military to change long standing policies that allowed a family to lose an entire generation at once. On Friday, November 13, 1942, a Japanese torpedo struck the USS Juneau at Guadalcanal.
Steven Spielberg depicted a story about WWII in the movie, Saving Private Ryan, in which three brothers were killed in battle and a group of soldiers were dispatched into battle to find the last living brother. Their mission was to bring him back alive.
Pulaski County has its own story which deals with total commitment of a family. Fred and Ida Sanders Hogg, who had a family of eight children, six sons and two daughters, made such a commitment during the historic war. This is an attempt to tell the story of a family who has a military history that begs to be told. The boys and their sisters were raised in a Christian home on the Chicken Road. Fred Hogg spent most of his life repairing Chevrolet automobiles and Ida stayed home to issue out the discipline to those who merited it. There must have been a considerable amount of discipline, considering that many boys were around to find fault with each other. Raymond Hogg, one of the surviving members of the family, lives in Florida where he has enjoyed the success of a business entrepreneur for many years. “We were like a lot of boys,” he said, “fighting amongst ourselves. My younger brother, Tommy and I fought mostly about who would get to ride our bicycle.”

“That is true,” said Tommy. “Raymond always thought he could get the best of me, but I had my share of victories, too.”
The first of the Hogg boys to go into the military was Julian, who actually joined in 1938 before the war began. He was supposed to be discharged in 1941. That all changed when the United States became involved in the war.

Julian Hogg’s term of enlistment in the army was extended until near the end of the war. During his time in the army, he was a Sergeant in the Chemical Warfare Service, having served in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy before moving into southern France for what would no doubt be his most dangerous assignment. He was involved in the European theater including the Normandy invasion, an event that ultimately spelled the beginning of the end to Hitler’s madness.
Much like Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan where there were multiple brothers involved in the European invasion, the Hogg family had another son involved in the Normandy invasion.

Richard Hogg, in a different location from his brother Julian, was also present when the D-Day operation came to fruition. Six months of planning had taken place while enormous forces gathered in southern England. In all, there were 10,000 aircraft, over 4000 landing craft, and 1500 warships under the direction of General Dwight Eisenhower, who was the supreme commander. Throughout the massive invasion and its aftermath, neither of the Hogg brothers suffered an injury.

During WWII, Sergeant Neil Hogg served in the army, based in Alaska, before moving on to the Aleutians.
Perhaps the most traveled of the Hogg brothers was Petty Officer First Class Willie Fred Hogg, a machinist mate in the Seabees. He gained valuable experience building roads, bridges and airstrips throughout the Pacific during the war. After the war’s end, Hogg would spend most of his life working within the field of building and engineering of bridges, roads and oil rigs.
The fifth of the six Hogg brothers to serve in WWII was Raymond who convinced his parents to sign for him to join the navy. He became a member of the submarine forces in 1945 before the war ended. During his substantial amount of sea duty he sailed on top of and underneath the ocean extensively throughout the south Pacific, including Japan and China. Raymond was finally discharged in 1949.
The sixth Hogg brother, Tommy, was only fifteen years old at the conclusion of the great war. His age kept him home during WWII, however when he turned eighteen in 1948, he continued the military tradition of the Hogg family by joining the army under a special program of one year active duty and six years in the reserves. After his discharge in 1949, he returned to the city by the Ocmulgee River where he worked in a cotton warehouse. In the early 1950s something called the Korean conflict began and not only was Tommy called back into the service, but his older brother Willie Fred was activated back into the navy. Both brothers were finally discharged at the end of the Korean War.

In addition to the military service of the six Hogg brothers, their sister, Mary’s husband Earl Walton was also in WWII, and their other sister, Marjorie’s husband, J. T. Wynne served in the National Guard. In the entire family, no one was killed. When asked what he attributed the good fortune of the family, the late Tommy Hogg replied, “I guess Mama and Daddy did a lot of praying.”
The children of Fred and Ida Hogg have shown the true American spirit by serving in the United States military. They have gone beyond the call of duty while serving God, family and country.