Four children buried in lei up to their foreheads tried not to fall as they made their way through a crowded hallway to meet their families.
No, it wasn’t a graduation.
But it had all the excitement and enthusiasm of one.
The children are orphans from the Holy Family Home in Osaka, Japan, and had just stepped off a nine-hour flight to Honolulu yesterday as guests of Peacebridge and the 27th Infantry Regiment from Schofield Barracks, also known as the "Wolfhounds."
The relationship with Hawaii started in postwar Japan, when Sgt. Maj. Hugh O’Reilly of the Wolfhounds took up a collection in his unit for the Holy Family Home orphans. In 1957 the Wolfhounds started hosting the children with Hawaii vacations after adopting the orphanage.
A welcome reception was held yesterday in a conference room at the airport.
Ryosaku, Namiko and Ayano have been in the orphanage since infancy, while Tenta was placed in Holy Family Home 3 1/2 years ago. They do not speak English.
Also in attendance at the reception in a Honolulu Airport conference room were two Hawaii couples who had adopted boys from Holy Family Home. Their sons grew up with Tenta and Ryosaku at the orphanage, and they were reunited yesterday.
There are four host families. Each will host an orphan for six days and then swap with another family to host another orphan for the remainder of the two-week trip.
Wolfhound Ambrose Crump and his wife, Michelle, will be welcoming 11-year-olds Namiko and Ayano into their Maili home. They have a 12-year-old daughter, Madeline, and a 10-year-old son, Matthew — no one in the family speaks Japanese.
"We don’t need words to show what a family is about," said Ambrose Crump.
The Polynesian Cultural Center, Honolulu Zoo and Dole Plantation are among the scheduled outings for the families to attend. The Crumps also plan on taking Namiko and Ayano paddling, snorkeling and hiking.
"It’s more important to just be there and spend time together, show that you care," said Michelle Crump.
The children will be staying in Hawaii until Aug. 6, when they will return to Osaka.
Schofield residents David and Jenna Rodriguez met the two boys they will be hosting over the next two weeks.
"There’s definitely a lot of nervous excitement," said David. He and wife Jenna have two kids, 11-year-old Cade and 2-year-old Sasha, and have been waiting for a couple of months for the arrival of 10-year-old Ryosaku and 11-year-old Tenta.
"My son is excited. He’s always wanted an older brother, and my daughter just loves people," David Rodriguez said. The family plans to take Tenta and Ryosaku to popular tourist destinations like the Pali Lookout, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay and Waimea Bay.
"This may be the best day of their lives, and at 12 years old, that’s kind of sad," said Hugh O’Reilly Jr., son of the project’s founder.
Japanese Consul General Yoshihiko Kamo turned to the children and muttered something in Japanese. He turned back to the microphone and said, "I told them, ‘Don’t be shy, don’t be intimidated and don’t be scared of local food — it’s all edible.’"