Two veterans that made a difference in the lives of others transported more than 400 Laguna Beach High School students, staff, and parents to post WWII Germany during a recent campus presentation.
Retired Col. Gail S. Halvorsen became known as “The Berlin Candy Bomber” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings” during the Berlin Airlift because of tiny handkerchief parachutes filled with candy that he dropped to the children of Berlin. He described wiggling the wings of his plane as a way of identifying himself.
Retired Sgt. Earl Albers Albers taught German children to play baseball and became known as the “Baseball Sergeant.” He went on to help establish the German Youth Activities Program (GYA) where post-war German children had a warm, comfortable place to study academics, play sports, and learn about democracy.
Parent Dr. Amy Bazuin-Yoder, who attended the presentation, said, “in this digital age, we sometimes forget the power of the human presence.”
The legendary 90-year-olds did what no textbook or Power Point presentation could do for students who know only freedom and peace, she said. They demonstrated how to honor these privileges with service, questioning authority kindly, and converting enemies into friends.
“These men are living history,” added school board President Ketta Brown. “Our students received the gift of ‘being there’ through them. The dinner conversation at our house that evening was about their selflessness.”
Board member Betsy Jenkins expressed her appreciation for the educational experience and the response from students. “The program was an incredible opportunity for our
students to have an eye-witness, firsthand account of the history they normally only read about in books. The speakers were wonderful, and I was so proud of our attentive, respectful students,” she said.
LBHS history teacher Kristin Parker and Thurston Middle School counselor Kay Ostensen recruited the speakers to Laguna following a similar presentation last month at Chapman University, which possesses a section of the Berlin Wall. The audience there was filled with German-born residents, who traveled far to thank these two heroes for risking their lives to help them.
“We were honored to have them speak to us about their experiences,” said Parker. “I was thankful for their example, not only of service to our country, but in showing us all that making small choices to give hope to others can have long lasting and amazing consequences for the lives of so many.”