Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The Journey Up Diamond Head

I would like to tell you all a story about my father. I’m not certain why I feel My dad, my mom, and me.compelled to write this story, but I woke up having dreamed about it.   

My Dad was my hero as a child. He was a career Sergeant in the Army, and later a public servant after his military retirement. He was a counter-intelligence agent… he used to smile and call himself a “G-man”. He was kind of a redneck version of Columbo, from the old crime series of that name. Where Columbo would play the dumb Italian, my father would play the role of the dumb redneck, in order to get those he was investigating to underestimate him. He even had one of those floor length tan Columbo raincoats. He passed away in 1994 of a heart attack… and I still miss him.

My father was a leader in the Cub Scouts and then the Boy Scouts for all of my life. He even served on a District Council after I had left home and joined the Army, having become an Eagle Scout. Many of my best memories of my father were of the many Cub Scout and Boy Scout trips we took together.

I woke up this morning remembering one story in particular. It was while we were living in Hawaii, when I was around 8 years old. The boys of our Cub Scout Den decided (actually begged and pleaded, until the adults gave in) that we wanted to go on a hike to the top of the extinct volcano “Diamond Head”, which overlooks Honolulu on the island of Oahu. You have probably seen it in many pictures of Hawaii. It is a beautiful place.

But that was not why we wanted to go. One of us had learned in social studies class that during WWII bunkers had been built all along the rim of Diamond Head, and we wanted to go see them, to play in them, to pretend that we were fighting a war. Real bunkers from a real war, how cool! Much better than the play forts we had been building in our backyards out of crates and boards.

The path up to the top of the extinct volcano had a few pretty impressive drop-offs, was loosely packed dirt in some places, and needed to be walked single file. Most of the bunkers were off limits, and the few that were open were maintained as a monument to that war, to that time.

So my father was faced with the challenge of taking a group of rambunctious children up to the Dad tying all the kids together.top of an extinct volcano along a path with some danger, and then try to keep us from sneaking off into some old bunkers that might well fall off the side of a cliff. Now that I think about it as an adult, I’m surprised he did not have his heart attack right then. What in the world were we thinking?

As we got out of the cars, my father brought all the children together. He gave us a lecture on teamwork, on how if we were going to do this and come back, we had to do it all together. We had to work together as a team. Then he laid generic imitrex not working down the requirement that “If one person falls down the volcano, then we are all falling down the volcano”… as he pulled a long rope out of the trunk of our car.

With all of us complaining, he tied the rope around the waist of each of us boys, with enough rope between us that we could walk comfortably, but not enough that we could wander off anywhere. I remember the feeling immediately… the rambunctiousness stopped, and I looked up the side of the extinct volcano, and thought of how stupid some of my friends were. If Tommy had fallen off the side of the mountain, no big loss… but now he’d take me with him. OhmyGod.

I'm right behind my Dad.  As Dad tied us all together, and tied the front of the rope to himself, we became more quiet, more serious than I remember us kids ever being. As we began the hike, I remember looking down the cliff, and looking at the rope, and looking at Tommy (the kid who was my next-door neighbor who I could have done without). As we got near the top, I remember seeing paths that branched off, leading to closed bunkers that I would have loved to explore.

When we arrived at the top, the view was incredible, looking out over the Pacific Ocean and at Honolulu. I remember seeing a small plane flying at our level. The bunker was dark, and it felt cold. It felt like a place with some deep history. It was more than a little scary. Even though we could have played there (still tied together), I remember feeling something else. The closest I can come to describing it now is “reverent”, but I did not have that word then. My friends must have felt the same, because though we did go to the slits and looked out the firing holes, the only one I remember pretending to be a soldier was Tommy, and I thought about secretly untying him for the trip down.

Soon, still tied together and dependent upon one another, we made the trip back down the extinct volcano. When we reached the bottom and were finally untied, Dad told us we had one more stop to make that day, one more extinct volcano.

It was a bit of a drive, but there is no drive that can be too long on a small island. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the WWII Memorial, built into the “Punchbowl” extinct volcano. I saw the flags, and the tens of thousands (it seemed) small little flags and names etched on stones. My father told us that these were the names and graves of many of those who had died in the Pacific Theatre of WWII.  Among them was my distant cousin, Ernie Pyle. 

I remember thinking that this volcano could erupt at any moment, that an extinct volcano could become live again, and all these flags and names could be wiped out by fire and molten lava. Little did I know that this had already occurred.

Thank you, Dad.

Yours in Faith,

One Thought on “The Journey Up Diamond Head

  1. Patrick McLaughlin on Monday December 1, 2008 at 12:36 +0000 said:

    What a wonderful story, David.

    As for why it might have come back to you… well, it’s a superb metaphor for so much of what life right now is about. We’re all roped together–even the ones who seem like they might not be much of a loss… at the moment, anyway. If any of us fall off…. Where we’re going isn’t nearly the playground that we thought back on flat ground.

    Thanks for being close on the rope.

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