Hawaii troops receive holiday cheer from UH group

University of Hawaiʻi
Malie Hirao, (808) 956-7532
Mia Noguchi, (808) 956-9095
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Dec 21, 2005

HONOLULU — The 29th Brigade in Iraq recently received some holiday cheer thanks to a grassroots project spearheaded by Malie Hirao of the Institutional Research Office (IRO) at the University of Hawaiʻi. The effort supported by Sharyn Nakamoto, Director of the Institutional Research Office; Linda Johnsrud, Vice President for Academic Planning and Policy; and their colleagues, collected donations totaling $1,700 to send 150 phone cards and nearly 1,400 handmade angel Christmas card ornaments and that were distributed among four battalions in the brigade.

"The project was a team effort by members of our UH community and our extended ohana to show our Hawaiʻi troops that we care about them," said Hirao. "Those of us who joined hands to work on the project could only hope that the angels would provide some small measure of joy to the troops during the holidays. We were thrilled to see their response upon receiving the angels and to see that the angel cards were being used to add an atmosphere of holiday cheer."

The project, called "Malama o Na Koa/Support Our Troops (1,001 angels)," began in April 2005 when Hirao gathered her IRO coworkers and other UH staff and began brainstorming ideas on how they could provide support to the Hawaii soldiers during the holidays and thank them for all of their efforts in Iraq. The group decided to use recycled Christmas cards to make angel ornaments on which supporters could write their messages of aloha. They set up booths at various UH athletic events and held a craft and bake sales to collect donations for the phone cards.

Hirao added, "The troops feel like we did a lot for them, but in reality, they did more for us than they realize by giving us a chance to discover the true meaning of Christmas! We are eternally grateful for that opportunity."

A sampling of the messages of aloha included:

"You are the one God chose to keep us safe."

"Dear Soldier, Thank you for protecting our freedom. God bless."

"Just wanted to let you folks know that the people of Hawaii appreciate everything you're doing for us (and the world)."

"I am sitting here and writing this to you ... I can do this because of what you have sacrificed."

Members of the brigade utilized the angel ornaments in decorations throughout their base. "The troops appreciated the tremendous task it took for the UH team to create and collect messages for the cards and donations to purchase the phone cards," said Henry Sakata, an IRO information technology specialist who currently serves in the 29th Support Battalion. "Everyone here was astonished. We appreciate everyone‘s thoughts and well wishes during this holiday season."

For photos of the troops and their holiday ornaments, please email Mia Noguchi at mianani@hawaii.edu.