GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leilehua senior Derique Pusey was one of a number of students who wore a yellow ribbon on their gown to remember relatives deployed in the Middle East. Her father, Master Sgt. Derrick Pusey, sent her a video message from Iraq.
Army parents send love to grads
Even though they were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, some fathers and cousins of Leilehua High School seniors made a surprise appearance on graduation night.
Twenty-two members of the 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks sent messages of congratulations and love to their sons, daughters and other relatives in the 2007 class.
The 22-minute DVD was shown yesterday in the high school gymnasium during a private ceremony for seniors before the graduation ceremony. A copy of the video can be seen at www.dvidshub.net/index.php after searching for "25th ID" and clicking on the "Video" tab.
"I was surprised. It felt good to hear from him and know that he was wishing me the best, that I was graduating," said Alysia Black, 18, whose father, Charles Black, is a chief warrant officer in Iraq. "I love him and miss him. I wish he can be here."
During the video, her classmates cried, clapped and hollered, she said.
A similar video was also produced for students at Mililani and Radford high schools.
Kendrick Washington, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii spokesman, said soldiers jumped at the chance to make a video for the family members.
"This is the beginning of their adulthood, and their parents wish they could be there," he said. "With the extension (of deployment) going on, these parents have already missed so much of their children's lives."
Traditionally, 22 percent of Leilehua's student body has connections with the military, said Malaea Wetzel, the school's vice principal. She said the video was initiated by Holly Bednarek, the wife of Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who also was in the video and has a child at Leilehua.
For Derique Pusey, her father's video message brought tears to her eyes.
"I'm going to tell him, 'You got me,'" she said. "He did something that made me cry. I should have known."
Seeing her father helped ease her worries and made a difference to show her that her father, Master Sgt. Derrick Pusey, was OK in Iraq.
"I was very surprised. I didn't think they could send videos," she said. "To see him ... was shocking. It brought tears to my eyes. They need to do that again."
One father, identified only as Staff Sgt. Landenstoy in the video, tells his son, "I want to thank you for being a good listener and following your old man's and mother's advice. ... I'll be gone the whole time that you have been in high school, but that has not been an obstacle for you not to reach your goals because you always have been persistent. ... I love you so."
First Sgt. Trefus Lee appears in the video but was able to return home for two weeks to see his daughter Melissa Lee graduate.
"It's great, just glad to be back and to share it with her," he said. He said the video was a great idea. "It makes you really proud that somebody was actually thinking about your family back here," he said.