JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Well-wishers greeted, from front, Taiki Matsumoto, Shunpei Taniguchi, Mika Chihara and Emiri Katagiri yesterday during a welcome ceremony at Honolulu Airport. The four are visiting Hawaii from the Holy Family Home in Japan and are staying with host families.
Raised by Wolfhounds
Orphans: Army sponsors children's vacation
Wayne Suehiro might not remember his short stay about 40 years ago at the Holy Family Home orphanage in Japan, but he has not forgotten where he came from.
The 42-year-old Honolulu resident, adopted by a Hawaii family when he was just 18 months old, continues to perpetuate a special bond forged between a Schofield-based Army unit and the orphanage almost 60 years ago.
Suehiro was one of more than 60 people to welcome four orphans -- two boys and two girls -- at Honolulu Airport yesterday.
"Every time we're here, I think that could be me," said Suehiro, First Hawaiian Bank vice president and area manager.
The children came here for a 10-day vacation sponsored by the U.S. Army's 27th Regiment Wolfhounds.
Bedecked in leis, 11-year-old Emiri Katagiri and 10-year-old Mika Chihara said their first plane ride was exciting despite being affected by motion sickness.
Chihara promised to bring her 7-year-old brother a souvenir from Hawaii when she returns to the orphanage. For now, Chihara said, she looks forward to swimming in the ocean.
Helping to welcome the four orphans yesterday was Yuko O'Reilly, the widow of the program's founder, Master Sgt. Hugh F. O'Reilly.
She said the children will treasure their trip to Oahu forever. "They may be tired today, but they will think about this kind of thing ... a long time."
All four orphans will return to Holy Family Home on July 30.
Since 1957 the Wolfhounds have brought Japanese orphans to Hawaii in an "unbroken tradition of love." But the Wolfhounds' tradition of giving to Holy Family Home orphans began years before.
Created by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul after World War II, Holy Family Home has been a refuge for orphans.
A relationship between the orphanage and the Wolfhounds formed Christmas Day in 1949, when Hugh O'Reilly and about a dozen other soldiers visited the bomb- ravaged home in Osaka, Japan.
Moved by the abysmal state of the orphanage, the soldiers raised $143 for the children about a week later. After deploying to Korea, they continued to collect money for the charity. On their last payday in 1951, the soldiers raised $10,400.
The orphans were never forgotten. Soldiers gathered donations for children by crawling in foxholes during battle in the Korean War. Blankets and jackets were fashioned into clothes for the children. In 1955 the film "Three Stripes in the Sun" paid tribute to their efforts.
Yuko O'Reilly said her first date with her husband was to the orphanage. "I was touched," she said of her visit.
O'Reilly is quick to correct anyone who solely credits her husband with fathering the relationship with Holy Family Home and the Wolfhounds.
"They call it Hugh O'Reilly's legacy and all this, but it's not. If Hugh was here -- if my husband was here -- he would say, 'No one can do these kinds of things by themselves.'" Yuko added, "It's the Wolfhound legacy."
"All these guys are fighting for peace when you talk to them. And this is peace." Hugh O'Reilly Jr. added, "They (Wolfhounds) are truly dedicated to it, and I know my dad was until the day he died."
Hugh Sr. died in 2006, but the Wolfhounds have continued visiting the orphanage every Christmas since 1958, albeit not for a few years during the Vietnam War.