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John Denver:
Country Boy

John Denver: Country Boy

 

At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, John Denver was one of the most popular singers in America. He performed at sold-out concerts, his albums sold more than 100 million copies, his TV specials got top ratings and he was named poet laureate of his adopted Colorado. Yet this man, who brought happiness to millions, was filled with insecurity, suffered from depression and was savaged by the music critics. Exploring the private life and public legacy of “America’s Everyman,” this intimate profile includes exclusive accounts from those closest to him, including former wives and managers, his son and brother, the musicians who toured with him for decades and the friends who knew the real John Denver.

 

 

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
Out of State

 

Shipped thousands of miles away from Hawaiʻi to a private prison in the Arizona desert, two Native Hawaiians discover their indigenous traditions from a fellow inmate serving a life sentence.

 

Learn more about the filmmaker

 

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI
Climate Change: Is Hawaiʻi Prepared?

 

Climate Change: Is Hawaiʻi Prepared? Intense rain events inflicting extensive damage and record flooding; active hurricane seasons that keep residents on edge; coastal erosion imperiling highways and homes; extreme droughts that hurt agriculture and fuel dangerous wildfires – these are natural events that experts say are linked to climate change. Join the conversation on INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI. You can phone in or leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Facebook:
Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.

 

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Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Patricia de Stacy Harrison

 

Asked who her mentors are, Patricia de Stacy Harrison starts by naming her beloved childhood home, Brooklyn. Growing up in the noisy, opinionated, caring New York City borough taught Harrison about the demands and challenges of the real world – and about developing the right skills, positive attitude and thick skin to deal with life’s complexities. The President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting shares her views on public media’s role in bringing us all together, even in a divisive social and political climate, and reveals how a hip-hop mogul introduced her to a wellness practice she uses every evening.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Patricia De Stacy Harrison Podcast

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

From that moment on, that my little childhood world was not that safe, that it depended on a lot of different things, um, and to put it on a – I didn’t think this then, but for democracy to really survive and thrive, requires work.

 

Meet national public media executive Patricia de Stacy Harrison, next on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one, engaging conversations with some of Hawaiʻi’s most intriguing people. Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha māi kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Patricia de Stacy Harrison is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, CPB, an organization you might recognize from the credits for many programs on PBS Hawaiʻi. The corporation is a private nonprofit that distributes about 450 million dollars in federal funding every year, as enabled by Congress to public television and radio stations across the US, including PBS Hawaiʻi. Harrison grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Now known for hipsters and skyrocketing real estate, the Brooklyn of Harrison’s youth was a different story – a small, densely populated neighborhood where she says everyone knew everything about you. Harrison calls Brooklyn her mentor, and its lessons informed her outlook on life at a young age.

 

It was a great neighborhood, and um, just how people expressed themselves. So, you would – when I was older, I had a job in the city – that’s what we called New York, the city. You were going to the city. And we would be on the subway, and people just had opinions about everything. It, it was sort of like surround sound. I thought that was normal, and then in our family, the same thing extended, uh, where everyone had an opinion about your life and what you should do, and so I grew up around very strong, opinionated people who didn’t listen to the answer, you know. That’s why someone said, ‘Conversation in New York – it’s talking and waiting to talk.’ So –

 

Listening is really important.

 

No – I figured that out later, but uh, uh…

 

Are you entirely Italian?

 

I’m half Italian and half Scottish. So, I’d like to say one half says have a great time, and the other half says you can’t afford it, so…um, but mostly the Italian side took over very early. My mother, um, encouraged dreaming, My mother was great storyteller, and um, where my father always thought I had delusions of grandeur, my mother always encouraged that kind of thing. And I remember, um, when I graduated from Midwood High School, um, and it was a very protective time then. This was before internet and that kind of thing, and we were going into the city to see a movie, and we were going to this one restaurant, and I said to my parents, “I want to sit alone.” And my father said, “What’s the matter with you?” You know, “You’re not sitting alone. We’re together.” I said, “No, I want to know how it feels to sit alone in a restaurant and order what I want, and, uh, pretend that I’m on my way now.” My mother said, “Great idea.” And so, they sat at one table, and my father goes, “You, you indulge her too much. You know, she’s got you, you would say, buffaloed.” And uh, it was the best time I ever had, and you know what, years later when I traveled all over the world and I was by myself, I remembered that 16-year-old girl sitting by herself. And the thing is, always have a book or a Kindle with you when you’re alone. And um, my mother always said, “Yeah, it’s a great idea. Let’s try it. Yeah.” I was a very, um, curious kid, to the point where my parents just got tir– “Because we said so.” They just got tired of answering the questions that one question led to another, and um, so I was informed. I like to say that Brooklyn was my mentor, the most important impact on my life because everyone was so diverse. Um, I, I went to school with Jackie Robinson’s niece, um, Asians, um, African Americans, and then we’d go to my grandmother’s neighborhood, all Italians, and a high Jewish, um, population. My friends didn’t have any relatives, so at a very young age, I didn’t understand why they didn’t have grandparents, uh, or aunts or uncles or cousins, and I remember asking my parents, and they were explaining, “Well there was this terrible man, uh, Hitler, and um, he killed everybody.” I mean, that was the shorthand approach, and I thought, “Well, why didn’t anybody do anything?”

 

What did they tell you about why they didn’t have any family?

 

They didn’t want to talk about it because some of them, uh, had been living in Brooklyn for a long time, but they lost – well, that’s a euphemism. Their relatives had been murdered, and they were my friends, we were all young kids, so they didn’t know what happened, and I couldn’t figure out why nobody would talk to me about this. My parents didn’t really know what to say, and they just didn’t want this to come up, but it had such a profound impact on me that, uh, that quote that ‘evil happens when good people do nothing.’ So, I was kind of wary from that moment on that my little childhood world was not that safe, that it depended on a lot of different things, um, and to put it on a – I didn’t think this then – but for democracy to really survive and thrive, requires work. We can’t just go lie down on the Barcalounger and think it’s gonna be here in the morning. And uh, so constant vigilance I think is required sometimes.

 

So uh, Brooklyn, there was a time, as much as you loved it, as much as it raised you, you, you wanted to go?

 

I wanted to go away to college, and you have to understand at that time, Brooklyn was a very small place, even though there were millions of people there, and the neighborhood was very small. So, the person who was on the corner with the candy store could tell your parents, you know, when you came home. Everybody knew everything about you, and I couldn’t wait to get out. And so, we always had these big family Sunday Italian dinners, and my mother announced that, uh, Patricia wants to go away to college, and that’s when it started. “Why? Why do you want to go away? This place isn’t good enough for you? Where do you want to go?” “Well, um, school in Washington, D.C.” “Washington, D.C.? Where is that?”  You know, I mean, “Why would you want to go there? What do they do there? They take our money away, they spend it. Why would you – you have good schools here. Why, you’re too good to go to NYU or Brooklyn Coll-”

 

These are tough questions for a young woman to be dealing with, or a young man.

 

Yeah, yeah. And I just stared into space, and waited ‘til it was gonna be over, the beating would be over.

 

Because you knew it would pass?

 

I knew I was going, you know.

 

Why did you decide Washington, D.C.? You lived near New York City…

 

Um, because it was close enough to fly, but at the time it was like, 25 bucks to fly. Uh, the train…and that’s as far as they would kind of, you know, willing for me to go.

 

But you wanted to be some place…

 

I had to leave.

 

…with – but it wasn’t just any place. You could’ve gone to, uh, you know, like, Rolling Hills College…

 

Oh no, uh, no, I didn’t want to do that. I had to – at the time, uh D.C., my parents drove me down, and I remember we went to the Safeway, and the person loaded up some groceries, and my father always had these bills with a rubber band, and he was peeling them off, and I said, “Daddy, they don’t tip. You don’t tip here.” He said, “What the hell kind of place is this? They don’t tip? This is where my daughter wants to go to college?” And, he was just talking to the air, you know, “Washington.” And so, um, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I love New York and I love Brooklyn, but there’s a time when you just have to, you know, see other places.

 

While studying at American University in Washington, D.C., Patricia de Stacy Harrison met her future husband, E. Bruce Harrison. Together they would establish a public relations agency that became one of the top 10 owner-managed PR firms in the U.S.

 

I was gonna be a writer, and um, my kids were little, so I was home with them and I was writing the – the Evening Star, which is no longer around, and um, the Washington Post, and I was a freelance, which meant I wasn’t really working for anybody. And uh, the only way I could write is I would lock myself in the bathroom because it was the only room that had a lock, and my kids would pound on the door and you know, want something. I wasn’t in there for like, days, just so I could get three thoughts together, and um, all of the writing – no matter what I’ve done, my – if I had to quickly describe myself, I would say I’m basically a writer. And so, when we founded our company, it was an opportunity to really write and prepare things and think things through in terms of, uh, issues and challenges, and um, we had that firm for 20 years, and then we sold it, but I learned a lot. You got to know people and issues, and then you, you – one of the things I think, which may be lost today, is I really think people should read publications that have opinions different from the ones you already have, just so you understand, or you can build your own intellectual capacity about saying, ‘Well, I agree with some of it. Uh, some of it I don’t agree with.’ But why? Because if you’re always taking in something that validates what you think from the beginning, how are you going to develop? How are you going to get that brain working, you know? You’re just gonna be stuck in some sort of status quo thinking?

 

And that’s actually the premise of public media, the, bringing together diverse perspectives in one place.

 

It’s wonderful; it’s just wonderful. And David Isay has, with StoryCorps, which is on NPR – he has this new initiative called, uh, One Small Step, and he brings people together in a safe place, you’re not allowed to hit each other – we have to say that now. Um, and they have different perspectives on different issues, and they talk about, ‘Well, this is why I believe in this.’ And the other person talks about that, and it’s not one big kumbaya moment where they leave and they’re holding hands like a Hallmark card, but there’s an exchange. ‘This is why I feel this way.’ ‘Oh, well this is why I feel this way.’

 

It’s, it’s, it’s – you don’t demonize people as easily as when, when you sit down and you maybe break bread and trade, trade viewpoints.

 

Yeah, Lidia Bastianich – who’s very famous on PBS – Lidia’s Kitchen and cooking, and she talks about food diplomacy, where you bring people in and you have this, you know, lovely food and you talk. And I said, “Well Lidia, in my family, Italian family, you bring people in and they yell at each other, but it’s not really yelling. No one ever changes their mind about their opinion. But somehow it all works, you know.”

 

You had to be strong to deal with other people’s strong opinion of you. I mean, your family was always telling you what to do, right?

 

Yeah, but I, I think that it prepared me for the world. The world was a lot easier in uh – when I talked to the New York Times, they picked their own headline for the article, ‘After Brooklyn, it’s all a piece of cake,’ because um, no one cuts you any slack in Brooklyn. It didn’t matter if you were five years old. You know, if you were playing a game with your grandfather, he didn’t let you win. Um, that was the mentality they – the parents at that time wanted their kids to be strong, to be able to survive. Um, a lot of them were working class, and they had no faith in um, you know, things are going to work out. They wanted everyone to be a teacher so you’d have something to fall back on, and I thought, “Well that’s great to be a teacher, but I don’t want to do it to have something to fall back on. I want to be passionate about doing the thing I want to do, and not as sort of a security blanket for the future.” So, they were very security-focused, um…

 

And, and I, I hear iron sharpening iron, the idea that you give, you know, you call people on what you think they should improve on.

 

Yeah, I think so. Um, I think that you help your children – I have three children, and I really want them very much, uh, and they have, um, be able to negotiate the world but be a good person at the same time. And um, I mean that’s, that’s really what a parent’s supposed to do.

 

After 20 years in public relations and getting to know people in the corridors of power, Patricia de Stacy Harrison served as an Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell during the George W. Bush presidency. In a post-September 11th world, she traveled to Iraq for cross-cultural exchanges. Before that, she served as Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee. Harrison didn’t think she had a chance at becoming Co-Chair, but her growing concerns for the Republican Party fueled her.

 

I just felt at the time that I didn’t really have any chance of winning, but I felt that the Republican Party, in my opinion, needed to listen to women and minorities, and I felt I wanted to talk to this group, and one thing led to another, and then I’m running for Co-Chair, and I remember at the time Hotline came out, and they had the other two people who were running against me, and they said, “There’s somebody else, but she has no votes.” I thought, “That’s me! I made the paper!” I thought, “Wait, I made the paper, but it’s bad news.” And then I did win and created um, the new majority council to um, really indicate that it was going to be a minority majority populations, and if the Party was going to thrive, they had to listen to new people coming in with um, their issues, and um, it was a wonderful, wonderful four years.

 

Then you became a diplomat. Was that part of the plan?

 

Well that’s – that is so bizarre. No, I don’t think anybody, um, would, uh, anticipate that would happen, but um, I was so, so very fortunate, again, really, really lucky, and uh, to become Assistant Secretary of State and work with this –

 

Oh I mean, but you – it had to be more than luck. What, what did it?

 

I really don’t know, um. I did not, um – my parents lived uh, I live in Arlington, and um, my parents were getting older and I did not want, uh, to leave the country for any kind of, uh, post, assuming I could have that as a choice. This was an opportunity, um, educational-cultural affairs, and uh, you would have an opportunity to actually see how your worked played out, what kind of impact, and then to work with Colin Powell, and um, so I don’t know. That happened. And I traveled, I went to Iraq – I went everywhere. I learned so much.

 

So, you were putting together partnerships?

 

Well, exchanges are the core where we, uh, bring people to this country, all ages and all levels. And then you have the database that shows so many people who came on these, uh, high-level professional exchanges go back. They wind up government or senior-level jobs. The whole idea, really, is to create mutual understanding between people in the United States and other countries. And then I created something called Culture Connect, where I identified and worked with a lot of people who were in the entertainment industry or they had written books, and we had Frank McCourt, who had written Angela’s Ashes. And we sent him to Israel. He, he worked with Israel – Israeli and Palestinian kids, and he started out talking to them. He said, “You think you have a lousy childhood.” And then we gave cards out with um, um, an internet address, so these kids could get in touch. So, you had virtual mentors, and they could talk to them about what do I do, how do I get into what you’re doing. We wrote – brought Yo-Yo Ma over with the Iraqi National Orchestra to perform here. And um, so many incredible things, the people that I met and listened to around the world, and I came away with the feeling that everybody is just connected. It’s like Henry Gates, “Skip” Gates, uh, “Finding Your Roots”, and you find out your roots are connected to somebody else’s roots. So be careful who you hate. They may be you know, your, your long lost great-great-great grandfather.

 

As the head of the private nonprofit corporation for public broadcasting, Patricia de Stacy Harrison holds the purse strings to federal dollars earmarked for public media. The money goes to more than thirteen hundred public TV and radio stations across the country. Here at PBS Hawaiʻi, the funding amounts to fifteen, one five, percent of our revenues. Like many other stations, we raise far more private dollars than we receive in government funds.

 

It’s a public-private partnership, and I think from the beginning, public media had to prove itself. We have to prove how we are fulfilling that mission every year, and report to Congress how these, these monies are spent, and report to the American people, and I think that’s fair.

 

And you do get hit in Congress with some, uh, broadsides of, you know, “Why’d you do this? Why’d you do that?”

 

We do. Um, I’d like to say sometimes uh, what offends, uh, someone on one side of the political aisle is the same thing that offends somebody else, and they both come at it from their own perspective. And we will get, um, responses and emails sometimes about a particular show, and someone will say, “Well that – that’s very left-wing.” And somebody else will say, “That was very right-wing.” So overall, we are the most trusted um, in terms of media and journalism and our content because, I believe, the American people own public media, and we’re responsible to them, and we relate to them and we connect to them. So, the idea that we’re just going to serve part of the public, um, we wouldn’t be around. We wouldn’t be relevant in the way we are today in their lives.

 

And this idea that, um, public media is slanted, I mean – the, the, the appropriations are voted on by the entire Capitol Hill crowd, right?

 

Absolutely.

 

And then how does – what, what is the support, uh, on, on, when you look at it on, on a partisan basis?

 

Well we have – we’re very fortunate. We have the, uh, Public Broadcasting, um, Caucus, and it’s headed by a Republican and Democrat. And you don’t have to like everything we do, but if you go around that table to this very nonpartisan group, or very bipartisan group, who serve their communities in appropriate ways, they will let you know why they specifically value public media. And it can be very, very different. Um, one person, one member of Congress said to me, “Frontline – to me, that’s the gold standard. I can turn to Frontline and I know they are dealing with the facts. They haven’t inserted their opinion. How do I know this? Well, they put their source, uh, availability on, um, online. You can check everything that they have referenced.” And he talked about after September 11th how he turned to Frontline because they had done this series on Bin Laden, and he said there was no emotionalism. There was no pushing for one idea or another. It was pure journalism, it was informative, and it gave me a sense of what was happening at a time when, really, everyone was terrified and confused.

 

And at a time when the – when Congress, sometimes Democrats dominate, sometimes Republicans – does public media spending pass regardless of who’s in charge or who’s in the majority?

 

Well I don’t take anything for granted. So – they cannot lobby. We have an association, American Public Television apps – they do lobbying. But I take the opportunity to meet with members and let them know what we’re doing specifically in their district. They’re Republicans, they’re Democrats, and um, I would like to say, because I believe it’s true, there’s consensus that we bring value to American life, and that’s – that’s the theme that runs through these conversations. They may differ on what kind of value, maybe it’s early childhood education or it’s journalism, but um, they have their favorite shows. And I remember someone said, “Don’t ever get rid of Antiques Road Show.”

 

Everybody has their favorites.

 

Everyone has their –

 

And actually, that has been, you know –

 

Everyone has their favorite, and um, so I think we’re at a point today where we have wonderful bipartisan support, and we’re really grateful for people on both sides of the aisle for that support.

 

Common ground and collaboration are important to Patricia de Stacy Harrison. Recalling a meeting she had with hip hop mogul for a public media project, she says being open and listening have changed her life.

 

And I said, “But um, you know, I’m too busy to do that.” And he jumped up from the seat. He said, “I’m a billionaire, and you’re too busy? You’re too busy? You’re not too busy. Get on the phone, call this person, Bob Roth, who has since become a great friend.” He said, “I got somebody here, Pat Harrison. She’s too busy to meditate.” And uh, he said, “Look, I’m sending you over there.” Suddenly my whole life is going over here. And um, I thought, “Well I can’t not follow through. What a gracious offer.” So, I went to meet Bob, and Bob has been working with the David Lynch foundation, and Lynch talks about meditation as you are in the water and you go down different levels to this area of calm. Up here are all the waves and the turmoil, and, ok. And he said, “Okay, Pat, Russell has called me so, uh, this is a gift that he’s giving to you, and um, you have to stay in New York – I think it was four days. And every day, we’ll take you through the training.” I said, “I can’t stay for four days. Here’s what I can do: let’s do the four days in like, the first day.” And he said, “Well you’re missing the whole point. It’s transcendental meditation.” I said, “Well, okay, maybe a day and a half.” He said, “Alright, well, boy, this is a hard case. Alright, we’ll try to fit in the four into a day and a half.” And um, I found that it was so helpful. At the time my mother was so ill, and eventually she died, and that’s what I turned to, um, so that I could continue to work, and um, at the same time have the necessary emotion. But to just find that place of, um, peace. And so, I don’t meditate twice every day, which you’re supposed to do, but I do it every night, uh, no matter what time.

 

For how long?

 

20 minutes.

 

And it works?

 

I don’t know what it means, ‘it works.’ It just makes me feel better. It’s not a religious experience. It slows your breathing in a way; it’s, it does something to your brain. And, um, it enables you to, well, for me, I just sleep eight straight. And uh, if I don’t get my eight, uh, it helps me do that.

 

So that’s another example of you, your being open to a discussion and then you follow some dots, and then –

 

Suddenly I’m with this person. I mean it’s…my life is just, uh, like the Wizard of Oz, except the wizard’s real. It’s available to everyone if you seek him out.

 

Patricia de Stacy Harrison says the three biggest influences in her life are Brooklyn, her former boss, Colin Powell, and her mother, Marguerite, whose curiosity, zest for life, and care for others continue to inspire her. About her time as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Harrison says she loved meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Mahalo to Patricia de Stacy Harrison, visiting Hawaiʻi from Arlington, Virginia, for sharing her story with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

People look at their life sometimes as a resume. ‘I, I did this, or I failed at that.’ But everything goes into that sort of vessel that is you, and sometimes the things that you think, um, that didn’t work out so well – you learn something from it. Nothing is ever wasted. I remember, um, when I was at the State Department, and um, working, the honor of working for Secretary Powell, and I don’t remember the exact issue, but evidently, I had not, um, provided, let’s say, all the information about an event, and what I learned is you prepare, you prepare, you overprepare. And uh, I learned so much working for him and his team, and uh, how you could achieve things and still retain who you are, your values.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit pbshawaii.org.

 

 

 

 

Jane Austen:
Behind Closed Doors

 

In JANE AUSTEN: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, host Lucy Worsley (Queen Elizabeth I’s Battle for Church Music) traces novelist Jane Austen’s life and career as she explores the homes and holiday apartments Austen lived and stayed. The “Pride and Prejudice” author used houses and property as central themes in her work, and was very much influenced by where she lived.

 

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Journey Home to the USS Arizona

Journey Home to the USS Arizona. Photo By Julie Thurston Photography

 

One of the few crew members from the USS Arizona who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, Raymond Haerry Sr., passed away at the age of 94 on September 27, 2016. This documentary follows Haerry’s family as they travel from New Jersey to O‘ahu to place his ashes aboard the sunken battleship.

 

Preview

 

 

 

PBS HAWAIʻI PRESENTS
Listen to the Forest

Listen to the Forest

 

An environmental documentary that traces the destruction of Hawai‘i’s rainforests, this film calls for preservation and a return to the ecological wisdom that guided traditional Hawaiians’ connection to the land.

 

 

 





LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Allen Hoe

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Allen Hoe

 

As one of more than two million draftees called upon to fight in the Vietnam War, 19-year-old Allen Hoe thought he would serve his time and then his life would return to normal. He couldn’t have imagined that his 10-month combat tour would make him what others describe as a soldier’s soldier. The longtime Hawai‘i attorney reflects on the wartime experiences that forever shaped his civilian life.

 

Read the November program guide cover story on Allen Hoe

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 2, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

More from Allen Hoe:

 

The Flag

 

Why Polo?

 

Allen Hoe Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When U.S. Army General Robert Brown spoke of the 2018 recipient of the Mana O Ke Koa, Spirit of Warrior Award, he said: Awardees demonstrate unparalleled patronage for and civilian leadership toward our Army.  Allen Hoe embodies those qualities.  While each nominee for the award is deserving, we feel Allen’s dedication to the Army is truly outstanding.

 

Fifty years prior to General Brown’s statement, the Army sent a special invitation—a draft notice, to the same Allen Hoe, who admits he was a typical local boy of the late 60s, focused only on surfing, hotrods, and girls.  But a ten-month combat tour in a small country in Southeast Asia turned this local boy into a soldier’s soldier.  Vietnam veteran Allen Hoe, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Allen Hoe’s father was from Kalihi on O‘ahu, and his mother was raised in Moloa‘a on Kaua‘i.  He points out his ancestors were all subjects of monarchies—on his father’s side, Chinese and Japanese; his mother, Hawaiian, English, Scottish, German, and Spanish. His father was a World War II veteran, and there’s evidence of warriors serving their country throughout Hoe’s family tree from the Queen’s royal guard in India, to a war lieutenant for King Kamehameha.

 

Now, you were raised a regular local kid?

 

Typical local boy; right.  You know, in the 60s, focused on surfing, rock ‘n roll, and girls.  The 60s, I think, for me, our history in the 60s was probably the most traumatic decade that our country has experienced in the last century.

 

And were you part of that resist, oppose? You know, resist authority was the call of the day for young people.

 

Yeah. Me?  No; I was more interested in hotrods and surfing.

 

So, that kind of passed you by.

 

Yeah, yeah; that kinda passed us by.

 

Were you in ROTC as a student?

 

So, did the war in Vietnam touch your life as it started out in the 60s?

 

You know, not really.  I think in my junior, senior year, it was just really kinda like an extra subject for history lessons, history courses.  And it wasn’t until the summer after we graduated that it kinda came home very personally, because the older brother of one my dearest friends was one of the first casualties in Vietnam.  He was killed in Cu Chi.

 

Oh …

 

And then, later on that year, I had a cousin who was killed in Vietnam as well. And then, it’s like, wow, this is for real, what’s happening here.

 

What happened next?

 

And then, I was still pretty much living life like a local boy.

 

Hotrods.

 

Hotrods—

 

Girls and surfing.

 

Yeah, yeah, surfing.  And then, I got a special call.  I love to tell this story, because the young soldiers today, I said: You know what, we are so proud of the decisions you made to serve your country, but you know, my legacy is a little bit different.  I was very special; Uncle Sam came looking for me.

 

He said: Mr. Hoe, we need you.

 

Had you been dreading a draft call?

 

No; no. You know, in my generation, that was part of growing up.  At some point, you know, you would either volunteer to become part of the then, what was very fascinating all-Hawai‘i company, which on 4thof July every year, you know, a hundred or so young high school grads would become part of the all-Hawai‘i company.  So, for me, you know, service was just gonna be part of my growing up.

 

So, that service didn’t, in your mind, include combat.

 

No. But it included, you know, doing some time in the military.

 

Right.  And so, even when you got that call, you didn’t say: Oh, my god, I could get sent to Vietnam, I could get put in really difficult circumstances.

 

Yeah; reality … I was nineteen, and that was not, I think, part of my reality. You know, I was young, still making perhaps unwise decisions regarding activities in life, et cetera.  So, for me, yeah, I didn’t feel threatened by it, neither did I feel any kind of overwhelming sense of obligation, other than to serve your country.

 

I understand after being drafted, you could have stayed here, I think.  But you volunteered to go to Vietnam?

 

Yes. Having grown up and hearing the stories from my aunts and uncles, and cousins, regarding our, quote, warrior culture, after training to become a combat medic—

 

Why did you train to be a combat medic?

 

Well, Uncle Sam said that’s—

 

You were designated.

 

Designated.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah; for training.  And you know, they give you a battery of tests, et cetera, and you know, who knows, but you know, fortunately, and I feel I was very blessed to have been selected to become a combat medic.  And after I trained long and hard to do that, when we graduated, all of the new combat medic qualified soldiers would go to the bulletin board to see where their next duty station was.  And the bulk of my class went straight to Vietnam.  I was assigned to San Francisco.  And you know, I didn’t question it.  And then, when I got to San Francisco, I was assigned to Travis Air Force Base.  The unit I was assigned to had a lot of soldiers who had come back from Vietnam, and they maybe had three to six months left on their assignment before they got out of the Army.  And stories that they shared with me in terms of what it was like presented a challenge to me, and I said: You know, given my background and my family history, I don’t ever want to … look back and say, I wonder how I would have done in combat.

 

But it was a different kind of combat.  I mean, it was like no other war we’ve had.

 

Yeah, but you know, for a nineteen-year-old, there’s only one kind of combat.

 

Wasn’t there some Geneva Convention ruling that it’s a war crime to shoot a combat medic who’s clearly identified in combat. But in Vietnam …

 

There were no rules.

 

Forget it.

 

Forget it; right.  And life expectancies for combat medics were worse than first lieutenants.

 

So, you wore weapons.

 

I carried, I carried both sidearm and a rifle.  And you wore nothing that indicated that you were a medic, other than your bag was bigger than the rest.

 

And then, you went out right after people got hurt in combat.

 

My mission, I was with a long-range reconnaissance team.  And so, when someone got wounded, they were generally standing right next to you, so you knew what was going on.  Yeah.

 

So, you could have been hit too.

 

Yeah.

 

Did you fire your weapon?

 

Yes. You know, for me, part of that experience, being twenty by the time I got there, and being young and adventurous, part of my responsibility being on that team was, I had to learn all the duties or all the functions of everyone else.  And as the medic, I trained the members of my team to the best of my ability in terms of, you know, first responder life-saving methods.  So, while with the team, not only did I fire my weapons, but you know, I helped set ambushes, I learned how to call artillery, and learned how to set demolitions and blow charges.  And yeah, you gotta understand, for a twenty-year-old, this is like fun stuff.

 

You don’t feel that it’ll actually hurt you? Do you feel untouchable?

 

You feel immortal.

 

Immortal.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

The most foolish kinds of things that one accepts in combat is that if it happens, it happens.  You know. And then, for me, it was, you know, as long as I can get through three of these life-threatening experiences, then I’ll be okay.  I very clearly distinctly remember the three times that I was supposed to have received something fatal, and survived.  And after the third time, it was like, oh, big relief.  I said: Nothing’s gonna happen.

 

I’ve got a force field around me.

 

I’ve got a force field around me.  And then, you just kinda learn how to operate just naturally and freely.  And yeah, you were still concerned, you were still frightened on occasion, but you knew that at the end of the day, nothing’s gonna happen. And you know … nothing happened.

 

But you can’t do that by skill alone; right?

 

It’s luck.

 

It is a matter of chance.

 

No, no, no.  Yeah; you survive combat purely on luck.

 

And meanwhile, you were seeing some scenes you can’t un-see.

 

Yeah.

 

Mutilated limbs and gory stuff.

 

Yeah.

 

Very sad, just grievous injuries.  How did you deal with that?

 

For me, it was just reactionary.  I trained; everyone trained.

 

You compartmentalized?

 

You compartmentalize.  When stuff happened, instinct kicks in.  And you know, I think one of the saving graces of our current force is that our young shooters, as I call them, the young infantry soldiers or the young combat soldiers that have to go to war for us, they are required to train twenty-four/seven.  And it becomes instinctive, it becomes reactionary.  So, when they’re on a patrol, they experience enemy action, they immediately shift into their combat mode.

 

Did you hear the talk that we understand was common at the time, where people were saying: What are we here for, why are here, this war doesn’t make sense.

 

Yeah. We would hear about that or read about that in letters or the newspapers that would occasionally come to us.  But you know, the reality is, at the end of the day in combat, you’re not thinking about fighting for your country, you’re not thinking about fighting to preserve, you know, family values or the constitution, et cetera.  You are simply thinking about saving the life of your buddy on your right and on your left. And you know, the reality is, at the end of the day, if you’ve done your job right and everybody survives, our country will be blessed by that.

 

Did you get really close to the guys you served with?

 

Oh; you know, to this day.  Fifty years ago, I met incredible bunch of young men, and probably spent twenty-four/seven with these men, maybe not more than four or five months with them, but to this day, when I hear their voice, I immediately know who I’m talking to. It’s that special bond that even kind of um, surpasses a familial bond.  You know, I have a relationship and memories of guys that I served with perhaps that run deeper than with my own two siblings.

 

Wow.  And you know, when you’re with somebody who’s terribly hurt, and possibly or inevitably dying, it’s a really intimate time you share.  How was that?

 

Yeah. For me, and the guys most closest to me, if one of our buddies was hit, we were—this is fascinating–we were doing our best to stabilize his condition, but it becomes not quiet and soft, but it becomes a loud, raucous kind of conversation to get their attention, to get them to focus, to get them to hang on and not to give up.  You know, so it’s yelling and screaming.  This is like—you know, I remember the first time that happened, my platoon sergeant, who obviously had been there longer than me, as I was treating one of my wounded buddies, he was shaking him to get him to respond, to wake up, and to fight on before we put him on the helicopter.  And I learned something that day, in terms of first, you know, you’re gonna … do your job to stop the bleeding, prevent the shock, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to get that young soldier’s attention, to get him to focus on things he needs to do.

 

Because that helps him—

 

Him, yeah.

 

–help himself.

 

Help himself.

 

You know, you have seen some things that most people never see, never have to know what it’s like.

 

Yeah.

 

How has that affected you?

 

You know … at times, it causes me to kinda go into a slump, but I’ve always been able to deal with that in terms of, that’s war.  And I kinda kick into this mode where long time ago, I read this passage where, you know, in war there’s only two rules; the first rule is that people die, and then the second rule is that you cannot change rule one.  So, you know, we were at war, people are gonna die, you know, and thank God if you survive, that you survive.

 

That 1968, when you were there, that was a particularly …

 

Yeah.

 

–fatal—

 

Yeah.

 

–grisly year.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, lots of fatalities.

 

Yeah. I guess the high water mark was 1968; in May, 1968.  And yeah, May 1968 was a particularly bad month for me.

 

What happened?

 

I lost eighteen of my guys.  And but for the grace of God, I would not be here, because ten of ‘em are still missing in action.  The grace of God was that my unit was transitioning from Point A to Point B, and I was not with them that day.  I was back in the rear, getting ready to rejoin them.  Before I could rejoin them at the new location, they were overrun.

 

And some of them were never found, but were you treating your own men?

 

Yeah.

 

In the field.

 

Yeah.

 

May; was that Mother’s Day?

 

May, Mother’s Day.

 

Mother’s Day.

 

Mother’s Day, 1968.  Yeah. I mean … if you can imagine, I mean, you’re a mother, you know how important Mother’s Day is.  That day by itself, you know, to get the message or the knock on your door that your son was killed on Mother’s Day.  I mean …

 

And so now, when Mother’s Day comes around at your home, you think of another meaning for it.

 

Yeah. I am reflective on the mothers of my men who didn’t make it.  And you know, over the past fifty years … that bond I had with their sons, I’ve developed with them.  So, for me, it’s very special.  For me, it’s always been an obligation to assure their mothers whose sons never came home that their sons are superb young men.

 

You made an effort to go do that?

 

Absolutely.  The majority of the men who I lost on Mother’s Day 1968, their mothers and their fathers had absolutely no clue what happened to them.  And to live without any knowledge of what happened, I just couldn’t.  And that’s even worse, you know, to have your son taken from you in combat, and that’s all you know.  He’s not here.  Why? We can’t share that with you, we can’t tell you the circumstances, or what happened on that day.

 

Do you think you had PTSD after the war?

 

I had issues.  I don’t necessarily think it is or was PTSD.  Everybody who experiences combat has issues.  I remember when I first came back from Vietnam, the first month that I was home, it was just party time; right?  You know, I was riding motorcycles back then, and every night we’d go out and … go and enjoy life, tip a few Primos.  And I remember like after a month, one day, my dad came home.  We were passing, I think in the driveway; I was getting ready to go out, and he was coming home from work.  And said: Al.  He said: You have a moment?  I go: Yeah, absolutely.  He told me, he said: You know, son, I won’t even begin to understand what you experienced in Vietnam, and what you’re doing now, you know, I’m not supportive of your behavior and what your conduct is now.  So, you know, how much longer are you going to do this, ‘cause don’t you think you need to start thinking about your future?  I hope you’re not planning to do this the rest of your life.  And I said: No, Dad, I’m just having fun.  But you know, that kinda came home to roost really strong for me, my father saying: Okay, all right, it’s time to kinda like get on with your life.  And, you know, I did.

 

He did it in such a nice way, too.

 

Yeah; he was just an incredible guy.

 

Allen Hoe’s parents had always insisted he would attend college, so when he returned home, he took advantage of two new State institutions for learning.  He enrolled in the new Leeward Community College, later graduating from UH Mānoa, and he was among the first class of law students admitted to the William S. Richardson School of Law.

 

Okay; the style of the day was long hair.

 

Yeah.

 

So, did you go back from the war with your short haircut, to—

 

Long hair.

 

–long hair.

 

Yeah.

 

And did you see anti-war protests?

 

Oh, yeah; yeah.  You know …

 

How did you feel about them?

 

You know, this may sound strange, but to me, that was just part of our great democracy.  You know, I tell people: Yeah, I have no problems with the protests, the marchers, and the anti-war people, even when I was in Vietnam.  I said: Hey, that’s what we’re here for, to give them the right to exercise, you know, their freedom.  And it truly did not bother me.  One of the things, though, that did bother me was, a couple of the young Leeward students were egged on by this group to pull down the American flag. And four of us Vietnam veterans stood ‘em off, and we said: You touch that flag, and you’re gonna go down.  And … they left the flag alone.  I said: You can protest the war all you want, but you’re not gonna come and touch this flag.

 

And that was a spontaneous act by the four of you?

 

Yeah.

 

Did you ever get pegged the wrong way when you walked around campus with the long hair?  I mean, did people assume anything about you that wasn’t true?

 

The wife of a soldier who was in one of my classes, her husband was a career soldier, had not been in combat.  And she made this kind of strange comment to me.  She said: Why are you so angry?  And I said: What do you mean?  She said: There’s this hate that comes from your eyes.  And I said: Your husband’s a soldier, has he been in combat?  No.  I said: Well, you send him to combat, and this is the look that he will come home with. And she just couldn’t understand that.

 

That it’s not anger.

 

It’s not anger.  People these days, or even for many years, they call it the Thousand-Yard Stare.

 

Allen Hoe’s adjustment to civilian life was bolstered when he met his future wife, Adele.

 

We met actually, I think maybe the second month after I got out of the Army. And you know, when I first saw her, I said: Oh, my god, that is the girl of my dreams.

 

At first look?

 

That first day we spent together.  She was actually a coworker of the sister of one of my dear friends.  So, we just kinda like wound up on not a blind date, but time together.  And she was, or is just a special person.  Yeah; yeah.  Swept me off my feet, so to speak.

 

Adele and Allen Hoe married and shared in the joy of raising two sons: Nainoa and Nakoa.  Both young men chose to be warriors and serve their country.  The elder son, Army First Lieutenant Nainoa Hoe, was killed by a sniper’s bullet while he led a foot patrol in Northern Iraq in 2005.  He was just twenty-seven years old, and had been married for less than a year.

 

My wife and I, Adele, we still hear from the soldiers who served with Nainoa. And that is very comforting to us. He absolutely loved being a soldier. And the fortunate part, if there is anything fortunate about that horrible tragedy, was that his last day on this earth was documented by a writer who wrote an incredible story of how my son spent his last day with his men in combat.  Now, for me, as a father who had experienced combat, that was just an absolutely incredible story.  For me, it was very gratifying to hear how he performed in combat, and how his men just dearly loved him.

 

Yeah; I was so impressed by your son Nakoa.

 

Ah …

 

Seeing him at an event where Nainoa was being spoken of and honored, and all the attention was on the fallen son.  And Nakoa is a very honorable and brave, Army leader in his own right.  Right?

 

Correct.

 

But it was not about him; he was just happy to see Nainoa being celebrated.  I thought, he’s grown up in that shadow of his—

 

Big brother.

 

–his big brother being venerated as a hero.

 

Yeah.

 

And not feeling like: What about me?

 

Yeah. You know, in retrospect, my Hawaiian culture, that’s what led me to name him Nakoa; brave, courageous, strong, army, a soldier.

 

It does take courage to kinda—

 

Yeah; to stand in the shadow.

 

To stand in the shadow; right.

 

Yeah. And he has become just an incredible young man.

 

So much grace.

 

So much grace.

 

Did you teach him that grace?

 

His mother taught him that grace.

How our family and how this community responded when our son was killed, for me, it was very eye-opening.  You know, having survived combat, having witnessed death, it was totally different when that knock came on our door.

 

2005.

 

  1. And then, it’s like our whole world just came screeching to a halt. And then, you know, over the years, I’ve become very close to the Vietnam veterans’ efforts, the memorials, et cetera.  Jan Scruggs is a very dear friend.  And you know, Memorial Day 2005, I was invited to come and be a speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony at The Wall.  It was not the first time I had been there, but that was my first experience when I got there and I looked at the fifty-eight thousand plus names in the wall, including like a whole panel of my guys.  And I just kinda like … stopped, caught my breath, and I said: Oh, my god.  Looking at all these names, you would think that the world would have come to a complete stop.  Because I know my family—

 

For some, it did.

 

Yeah.

 

Many, it did.

 

For some, it did.  And for, you know, my—my experience and my family’s experience, the world did come to a stop.  You know, but there it is, fifty-eight thousand plus names, and we’re still at war.

 

Shortly before our conversation with Allen Hoe in the summer of 2018, he and nine other local Vietnam veterans were honored at what the Army referred to as a long overdue ceremony.  While only ten veterans were selected, the Pentagon report said they represented a large number of soldiers who served in the Southeast Asia conflict, but were never given a proper military ceremony to present awards and medals.  Allen Hoe received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart at the ceremony, and told news reporters it was well worth the wait to have the brigade you went to war with recognized years and years after that war was over.

 

We thank Vietnam Combat Medic Allen Hoe for his time with us, and the work he continues doing in the civilian and military communities.  And we thank you, for joining us.  For more of Allen Hoe’s conversation, including how a flag originally purchased as a souvenir in Vietnam has earned a military record of its own, and why it’s in Hoe’s DNA to be passionate about horses and the sport of polo, please go to PBSHawaii.org and our Long Story Short archives.  I’m Leslie Wilcox for Long Story Short and PBS Hawai‘i.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

People say: You do so much for the Army.  And I said: You know what, when I have a quiet moment, sitting in my backyard at Maunawili, looking up at Mount Olomana, which was one of Nainoa’s favorite places, I just kinda look up there and I says: All right, son, you didn’t think Dad had enough to do?  So, my mission has been to try and make the lives, and the comfort, and the memory of soldiers who put on the uniform every day for us a little bit better.

 

 

 

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