Story and photo by
Sgt. Robert England
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Soldiers from the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 27th Infantry Regiment, “Wolfhounds,” 25th Infantry Division, welcomed four orphans to Oahu in a ceremony held at Nehelani Club, here, July 23.
The orphans arrived from the Holy Family Home orphanage in Osaka, Japan, and are staying for two weeks with host families from the two battalions.
The Wolfhounds’ relationship with the Holy Family Home began in 1949 when Soldiers from the 27th Inf. Regt., 25th ID, visited the orphanage Christmas Day, according to Lt. Col. Barrett Bernard, commander, 2nd Bn., 27th Inf. Regt., 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Seeing that the orphanage was in bad shape, the Soldiers raised money each payday and donated it to the home.
This legacy of support has continued for 63 years. Wolfhound families have opened their homes to Japanese orphans, providing them food, shelter and family experiences since 1957.
“There are two formal events a year: a summer visit, like this one, and in the winter the regiment will send Soldiers over to the orphanage, where they will play Santa Claus,” Bernard said. “That’s a tradition that dates back to the very first years in the early (1950s) with the Soldiers who established this very relationship.”
The Wolfhounds work in conjunction with Peace Bridge Inc., a not-for-profit volunteer organization founded in 2007 with the intent of providing support to the Wolfhounds and their effort to keep the Holy Family Home visit an unbroken tradition. Peace Bridge Inc. is formed by military and civilian community members who oversee the administration of monetary donations to the Wolfhound Orphanage Legacy Fund to benefit the children of the Holy Family Home and facilitate the planning of the orphans’ visit.
This year, four families will host the four Japanese orphans — two boys and two girls. The host selection process began about four months before the children’s arrival, when potential families voluntarily submitted their names for consideration. The ages of the visiting children were compared with the ages of the children in each family to select the one that offered the best potential home environment possible for the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Lautieri, personnel section noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 27th Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, was a host for the children this year and said he and his family were excited when the opportunity arose.
“My wife said it would be a good opportunity to experience a little more Japanese culture since I was stationed in Japan for three years,” Lautieri said. “(Japan) was a good experience, but my family wasn’t with me then, so when the opportunity arose for the culture to be brought to us, I knew we had to go for it.”
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Pessink, platoon sergeant, Co. D, 2nd Bn., 27th Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, said his family looked forward to hosting the children as well, and that the Pessink family had activities planned to help the children enjoy their stay in Hawaii.
“When we found out we would be hosting them, we were excited; it was like we won the lottery,” Pessink said.
During their time with their host families, the children take trips around the island and take part in activities ranging from beach days and water park adventures, to a tour of Kualoa Ranch.
The outings are fun, but the orphans’ time in the families’ homes is the highlight, according to Bernard.
“The number one activity that these children will benefit from is nothing that is scheduled; it is actually the time they spend in a home environment with our families,” Bernard said. “The best thing they get out of this whole experience is a home environment, because that’s the one thing they can’t get at the orphanage.”