U.S. veterans nostalgic for united support

Retired war veterans discussed their experiences in the U.S. Air Force with the UH Air Force ROTC cadets Wednesday at the Garrison Gym.

"As you age and grow up, be proud that if you get to serve in any manner or capacity, you are a veteran," retired 1st Lt. Richard Collins said. "Honor the word veteran for your friends, because it is just a powerful, powerful word."

Collins, who served during World War II as a pilot, was in Nagasaki, Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped in Aug. 1945.

Retired Col. R.H. Kjar, who joined the Air Force when it was founded in 1947, said that a major concern in the United States is a country divided by war. During World War II and the Cold War, the United States was more united.

"We tend to suffer from a lack of character and integrity in our leadership process (today), which is what makes the training of the UH Air Force ROTC even more important," Kjar said. "That is why you have to be leaders and spread that among your fellow Americans."

Kjar believes that the attack on Pearl Harbor had more of a direct impact on the nation than Sept. 11 attacks and that the terrorist attacks in 2001 did not test the American spirit the way Pearl Harbor did.

"What they did not count on was the resolve of the American people once they are faced with survival and a real challenge," said Kjar. "Sept. 11 didn’t turn our entire nation into a different group or economy. We thought badly of it and worried about terrorists but it didn’t, and still doesn’t affect the man on the street. We live a great life. We have (high definition) TV, cold and hot water, and great supermarkets."

In the 1940s, during World War II, the U.S. government asked people to ration goods such as rubber and foods. Young men were asked to enlist, but everyone was asked to support the war effort.

Collins, who dropped out of college to sign up to go to war immediately after Pearl Harbor, witnessed the change first hand.

"I couldn’t wait to sign up," Collins said. "I wanted to go to war right then."

The key thing for the cadets in the UH Air Force ROTC is to learn from the good and bad in their military career, he said.

"I look back on those years and there are a lot of disappointments, but it seemed like for every disappointment I ran into, there was an equal and opposite reaction. I thoroughly enjoyed my Air Force career. I hope as you go through your career, you will look on the bright side of the picture," Kjar said.

Training in the Air Force provides a focused mindset for the cadets to work for a better nation, said Collins.

UH AFROTC cadets said they were honored that Air Force veterans were dispensing their knowledge and experiences.

"It is empowering to hear these two great gentlemen share their history," communication junior Rebecca Martin said. "They have provided great services for the U.S."

Kjar and Collins told cadets to keep America on track.

"As far as American society is concerned, I see some great turbulence. We tend to pull against each other on many issues, said Kjar. "I look to the UH Air Force ROTC to be the influence that helps American society find its place in the world."

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