By Brandon Bosworth, Ho'okele Staff Writer
In 2013, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam hosted a wide array of visiting ships and dignitaries from around the world.
The Navy’s first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) stopped at Pearl Harbor on March 11 after departing its homeport of San Diego to deploy to the Asia-Pacific region.
Ships from foreign navies also visited Pearl Harbor, including ships from Japan, Australia, China, the Republic of Korea, and Bangladesh.
It wasn’t just ships visiting joint base in 2013. Several dignitaries also visited Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited JBPHH in both May and August. While here, Hagel addressed service members both at joint base and at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
“Thank you, on behalf of our president and our country,” the secretary said at a May 30 inside aircraft hangar 19 on the Hickam side. “I know sometimes you feel stuck out here in the Pacific, that no one knows who you are or what you’re doing. Let me assure you, we do, and we’re grateful.”
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, visited with service members and their families during a stopover July 27 at JBPHH. The vice president and his wife were on their way back to Washington, D.C. from an overseas trip to Asia and Singapore.
During his visit to joint base, Vice President Biden thanked those who stand the watch at home while their loved ones are deployed.
“Military families make up one percent of the population, and 99 percent of the rest of the population owes you our thanks for the incredible sacrifices you make,” he said.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning visited JBPHH in November. He paid his respects to fallen service members at the USS Arizona Memorial and attended a Royal Australian Air Force F-111C dedication ceremony at the Pacific Aviation Museum, Ford Island.
Other JBPHH distinguished visitors included Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans.
One such hero is Schuyler “Sky” Fredrikson, who served on the USS Missouri from 1944 to 1946. A 3rd class petty officer, Fredrikson was serving aboard Missouri during the Battle of Okinawa when a Japanese kamikaze suicide bomber hit the ship. On Jan. 10, he was a special guest at the Battleship Missouri Memorial. It was his third time aboard the vessel since its decommissioning.
Another unsung hero is Lauren Bruner, who was serving aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941. Bruner, now 92 years old, returned to Pearl Harbor along with a film crew working on a project titled “Second to the Last to Leave.” The film documents what Bruner remembers about that devastating day and the weeks that followed.
U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, Col. (retired) Joe Jackson, visited the 15th Wing Feb. 28 through March 3 to attend the 15th Maintenance Group’s annual Knucklebuster award ceremony and meet with Hickam Airmen. Jackson, who received his medal of honor in 1968 for a heroic rescue of a combat control team during the Vietnam conflict, served as the guest speaker for the Knucklebuster event.
Some of those visiting JBPHH were heroes of a different kind.
As part of the Air Force’s Pilot for a Day program, young people facing catastrophic illnesses are invited to be guests of the 15th Wing and one of its flying squadrons for an entire day. Airmen strive to give each child a special day and a break from whatever challenges they may face.
“I feel lucky, privileged, honored and very fortunate to participate in Pilot For a Day,” said Col. Terry Scott, 15th Wing vice commander. “It’s great to meet such good people who have overcome such obstacles. They’ve earned my respect and it doesn’t matter how old they are, it’s respectable to see someone not giving up, not quitting, taking life by the horns and going out there and living – seizing life.”