100 Years (and Counting) of Service, Honor
A century of dedication to American patriotism continues as the Armed Services YMCA honors families from each of the six branches of the military.
What is the Armed Services YMCA? A historic building? A tradition that spans 100 years? A haven for heroes? The essence of patriotism?
Actually, it’s all of these … and more.
As Hawai‘i’s Armed Services YMCA celebrates its centennial, it’s time to recall its history and examine its value to our community. Any enterprise that has lasted 100 years and maintains its relevance for today and tomorrow deserves attention.
Mention ASYMCA and most locals will point to the distinctive building at South Hotel and Richards streets across from the State Capitol. Some might think the YMCA still occupies the Spanish mission-style building. It doesn’t.
But the memories linger on.
Take a nostalgic walk with us for an insightful look at American patriotism in its most primal and heartfelt form. We’ll reflect on history, find out how military families are helped, and highlight six service families that are exemplary models.
As ASYMCA of Honolulu executive director Laurie Moore puts it, “Military families know what it means to serve. They stand by during long periods of training and deployment. They know the risks but accept this life of service anyway. They know service is an honor.
“One hundred years of experience have taught us that strong military families mean a strong military,” says Moore, whose father and grandfather are veterans.
In 1914, a Honolulu Chamber of Commerce survey of servicemen revealed the need and desire for an Army and Navy YMCA, which was the name of the Armed Services YMCA prior to 1948. At the time, there was no place in Honolulu where an enlisted man could stay the night at a reasonable price and enjoy organized entertainment such as dances, concerts and lectures.
In 1917, a committee of prominent citizens raised money to purchase the original Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Richards Street, and the YMCA was opened.
The facility had sleeping quarters for 500 men, a gym, music room, game room, pool, laundry and cleaning services, and organized entertainment.
On any given weekend, more than 4,000 men passed through the doors. In 1926, ASYMCA moved into a rebuilt structure that is today Hawai‘i State Art Museum. Sixty-one years later, the downtown building was sold, and the YMCA moved on to military bases.
But the historic place of refuge and rejuvenation will never be forgotten by veterans who once could get a bed, blanket, hot dog and coke for 50 cents.
ASYMCA continued to care for service members through the Korean and Vietnam wars. As times changed, so did its programs.
Today, it focuses on military families, especially spouses and children, at base housing sites.
As ASYMCA chairman and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeff Remington reports, “In 2016, we enhanced the lives of 49,421 service members and their families stationed on O‘ahu. We have progressed with the times. Historic dance band competitions have become father-daughter dances, WWII letter-writing service has been replaced by parent participation preschool, and game rooms have changed to robotics camps.”
On Nov. 8, ASYMCA hosted a Celebrating the Military Family breakfast at Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Coral Ballroom. One family from each of the six branches of service, nominated by commanding officers, was recognized to the rousing applause of attendees.
Guest speaker Gen. Robert B. Brown, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific, noted that active-duty military comprise an elite group of less than 1 percent of the American population.
Meet this year’s honorees:
Master Sgt. David Bickel, Tactical Air Control Party and Joint Terminal Attack Controller program manager for Pacific Air Force.
Wife: Bridget Bickel, who is expecting the couple’s first child.
Bickel deployed several times to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was wounded in Iraq and battled through PTSD as well as traumatic brain injury. Refusing to give up, he returned to full deployable duty as battlefield airman as well as serving as mentor and advocate for service members battling PTSD.
Gunnery Sgt. Jason W. Fudge, communications and operations production chief.
Wife: Tiffany M. Fudge (now retired from the Army) served as combat cameraman and forensic photographer for Defense POW-MIA accounting agency.
Children: Noah, 4, and Kaila, 2.
The Fudges are a dual active-service family. Sgt. Fudge has planned and coordinated 32 joint and combined exercises, and went on 19 trips to Brunei, Japan, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tarawa, Thailand and other locations. His wife was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that required her to medically retire from the Army. Both persevered through personal and military hardships.
Sgt. First Class Andrew Gregory, veteran of multi- ple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wife: Jessica Gregory. Children: Laithe, 7, and Kai, 4.
Gregory injured his cervical spine in an Army combative training accident in 2012. After recovering from cervical fusion surgery, he competed and won the title of AMC NCO of the Year in 2013. The following year, while on his fifth combat tour, he suffered a lower back injury. Despite being told he would never run or lift weights again and would probably be medically retired, Gregory persevered, completing the Army’s master fitness trainer course in 2016 and achieving the Cross Fit level 1 training.
Petty Officer First Class Bryan J. Kelly, maritime law enforcement.
Wife: Ellen Kelly.
Children: Chloe, 4, and Quinn, 3.
Kelly has served multiple tours in Iraq, Gulf of Eden and South America. He leads the Cross Fit Gym on Coast Guard Base Honolulu, serves on the Honor Guard, and recently completed a 300-mile bike marathon in Oregon in support of service members experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Spc. Shane Philpot, federal technician at Army Aviation Support Facility.
Philpot graduated from Damien High School and appreciated the direction that the National Guard provided in his brother’s life, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2012. After basic and advanced training, he became an airframe structural repairer. He was certified in aviation maintenance at Honolulu Community College and now serves at Wheeler Army Airfield. During deployment in Iraq, Philpot demonstrated leadership abilities beyond his rank with his technical knowledge, patience and calm demeanor.
Intelligence Spc. First Class William K. Roy, selected for exceptional leadership and community service.
Wife: Shannon Roy.
Roy, originally from Kailua-Kona, enlisted in the Navy in 2009, following in the footsteps of his older brother. He completed a year’s deployment to Cambodia and served as lead petty officer at sea. He and another sailor began a volunteer program visiting patients at the Veterans Hospital, where they have met and been inspired by men and women who have “sacrificed so much for our freedoms.”
As ASYMCA observes its 100th anniversary and honors these fine American families, the words of President John F. Kennedy resound:
“I look forward to a great future for America — a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.”