Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thank You

You made this trip an unforgettable experience for us. We appreciate your wisdom, stories, and friendship. We look forward to continuing the relationship and always having you as our adopted Grandpa. Thank you for all you have done for us.

Love, Chelsea and Daniel

Don and Thelma Sexton,

Thank you for all the intriguing stories and the life lessons you shared with us. These past ten days have been such a learning experience and our eyes have been opened to the wonderful story of Charlie Two Shoes. You will both be in our thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely, Carissa and Nathaniel


It’s been so great to get to know you on this trip. You gave added so much laughter and joy. We were honored to hear you stories, thank you for sharing. We hope you have had as great of an experience as we have. Thank you for your service and your life. We are truly blessed to know you.

Chelsea and Daniel

Dear Carl,

Thank you so much for your Godly example and all the stories you have shared with us. It has been a privilege to spend time with you in China and relive some of your memories. We hope to stay in contact with you and we will always remember the memories we made together.

Love, Sarah and Nathan

Dear Dominick,

Thank you so much for allowing us to get to know you on this trip. We are so glad that we were able to share this experience with you. Your determination, vigor for life, and your spirit of adventure will always be with us. Thank you for making us smile and laugh. You are a joy! Thank you also for serving your country and keeping our land and people free.  We will never undserstand how much was sacrificed by you and many others. Thank you for being such a blessing to us.

Love, Liliana, and Laura

Amy, Nancy, and Christi,

It has been such a blessing to accompany you on this journey to China.  I am always so amazed at how God allows people to cross paths as strangers and depart as close friends. May He continue to richly bless you and keep you close in His hands. I will cherish these memories for a lifetime. Thank you for being a blessing to each of us.

Lori Vanderpool, RN, BSN

David, Stratton, and Mary,

I am so glad that we could enjoy this great journey together. Your knowledge and expertise on the trip was irreplaceable. I am grateful for the many great moments we all shared together. This is a trip that will not soon be forgotten.

Blessings, Jon Wahl

Tsui Family,

It has been an honor and a privilege to travel with your family over the past twelve days in China.  The love and respect you show each other is both heartwarming and inspirational.  Thank you for sharing your lives and experiences with all of us and we look forward to seeing all of you again at the College of the Ozarks.  God’s richest blessings on your family.

Fred and Rachel Mullinax
College of the Ozarks

Mr. and Mrs. Mullinax, Lori Vanderpool (Nurse), Jonathan Wahl (Photographer) 

Thank you to all who made this trip such a memorable experience!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ladies First

The Great Wall
Today, we walked on the only man-made object that can be spotted from space. Of all the places we’ve been in China, the Great Wall has been the most beautiful, peaceful, and remarkable activity that we have enjoyed with our veterans and other guests. The slope was steep, but it was a great way to start the last day of our trip.

Our server sliced
our freshly cooked
Laura, Chelsea, Lili, and Carissa
during their hike of The Great Wall
We had our lunch today at the Jade Factory. The food was still traditional, but delicious. Afterwards, the group was given some time to learn the history of Jade, tour the factory, touch some very expensive pieces, and do some shopping.  Our last stop of the day was a visit to the Ming Tombs. The atmosphere at the tomb was very peaceful as well, and we were enriched with much history. As tonight is our very last night in China we concluded the trip with a farewell banquet. At the banquet gratitude was expressed to our veterans, Charlie’s family, and the rest of our guests. We even were able to enjoy Peaking Duck, which is a delicacy here.

 The veteran that I have been blessed to accompany on this trip is Colonel Bob Hemlinger. Mr. Hemlinger is by far the most genuine and wise man that I know.  In addition to learning about his time as a Marine in China from 1947-49, and the part he played in Charlie Two-Shoes’ incredible journey, I have spent this time uncovering every sweet and interesting detail about this man. Bob and I have developed a relationship so sweet that I can do nothing but thank God for allowing our paths to cross. I look forward to continuing to being a part of his life.

Chelsea and Bob walk together to The Great Wall.
 During the trip, Mr. Hemlinger has drilled the phrase, “ladies first” into my head.  Whether it is entering a doorway, exiting a bus, or serving our food at every meal, he insists that I am first. If I try to do otherwise I get a glare. At first I thought the glare was intimidating, but now I see the love and kindness behind the look he gives while a grin is trying to form.

 Bob and his wife Deniece have been married for 63 years. Bob was 19 when he married her, and everyone on this trip has noticed in one way or another how deeply in love he is with his wife.  Bob shows off her picture and refers to her as being too beautiful for her age.  Mr. Hemlinger is a retired high school football coach and social studies teacher. His knowledge and desire to learn history has opened my eyes to see all the details I have been missing for so long.

 The past 10 days have been extremely rewarding. I am going to truly miss this Texan that now calls me his 5th granddaughter. Bob recently moved to North Carolina, but I pray that I get to see the man again who told me, “I entered the war a boy, but left a man.”

Chelsea Silvey

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Darlin’... I’d Come Find You.

The Forbidden City
Nine days. We have already spent nine whole days in a world that was only possible to imagine through movies like Mulan and pictures in a history book. We are currently in Beijing, China. What in the world? It has been nine days since we arrived in China but my mind still cannot fathom exactly where I am. It feels like a constant state of bewilderment and fascination.

Today was our first full day in Beijing after leaving Qingdao, and I had no idea the same country could be so vastly different by city. The population in Beijing is about triple that of Qingdao. As I walked in awe through a sea of people at the incredible sites of Tienamen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven I felt a bit overwhelmed, yet completely safe as a man that has so quickly captured my heart only gripped tighter and tighter to my hand. This man’s name is Don Sexton and every day as I have sat and soaked in every bit of his stories, I thank the Lord for men like him, and the blessing to get to know him.

Carissa Westfall and Don Sexton walk
 together through The Forbidden City
I am naturally a pretty possessive and territorial person, which I know can come across as a flaw, but I have come to the conclusion that it all depends on perspective. Before this trip began I made a goal to return to my kindergarten roots and be a good sharer. Yet, it never dawned on me that someone else could possibly be just as territorial and possessive as I am. Mr. Sexton actively seeks Nathan Hartsell (who was also paired up with Mr. Sexton), and I out. His bright blue eyes light up and he comes to life when he talks to us. He will come up beside me and grabs my hand or holds out his arm to escort me. His comments of, “Where have you been darlin’? I have been lookin’ everywhere for you,” melt my heart. Don truly cares for us and wants us to learn from his mistakes. He tells us all about Charlie and the war, but he makes it a point to talk to us about life in general. Don tells us stories about his life before he gave himself to Lord, and of the impact the Lord has made in his life since then. God is given the glory always and He reiterates the importance of this always. Don is even the master of marriage advice and Nathan and I can only stare and say, “Yes sir.” His beautiful wife, Thelma, is on the trip as well and seeing their relationship and the way he treats her and talks of her validates all that he has to say.

Students shared a spot at "the center of the universe."

Walking through the gardens at The Temple of Heaven
There were many beautiful architectural features in The Forbidden City.

I feel beyond blessed to be in China where I have the amazing opportunity to see sites where so much history that is so important to an entire nation took place, and to not just have the opportunity to get to know and love a man like Don Sexton, but also be loved by him. A moment on this trip that I will never forget was on Pagoda Pier where Mr. Sexton had a death grip on my hand. We were trying frantically to weave through a sea of more people than either of us had ever seen before. Don was leading the way and we were squeezing through people trying to keep up to the group as best we could. I was a little girl again trying to stay close to Don. I yelled out that I wouldn’t know what I would do if I got lost in this place. Don stopped dead in his tracks and I obviously did not get the memo and ran right into him. He solemnly stood his ground and intently said, “Darlin’... I’d come find you.” This eighty-three year old man is a veteran, yes of course, but Mr. Don Sexton is now MY veteran and my hero.

Carissa Westfall

A Simple Life

Chelsea Paulsen, Bill Marsh, and Daniel Mallette at Prince Gong’s Mansion Picture

Seven days ago I met a man named Charlie. Throughout our trip many have told us about this incredible man’s life. Without a doubt Charlie has lived an amazing life, but perhaps his outlook on life is even more inspiring. On the night we met Charlie I had the honor to sit at his table for dinner. As Charlie caught up with one of his old marine buddies, Bill Marsh, I overheard Charlie say something that I will never forget. Charlie said, “life is simple, but it is not always easy.” Over the past week, this piece of wisdom has resonated in every story told. The story of Bill Marsh is no exception.

 Bill Marsh walked into the Marine Corps office and enlisted on his seventeenth birthday. He prepared for his journey to the Orient at the Paris Island boot camp. At boot camp, Bill went though strenuous training. One aspect of the training was an obstacle course. Bill remembers running the course, then asking if that was all they had to do: it hadn’t seemed that bad. But there was more to do and in 1944 Bill was stationed in Okinawa. Already scarred by the heavy fighting, Bill found the island bare of vegetation. As the company worked their way around the island Bill would constantly have to dig foxholes to find relief from Japanese fire. When the island was secured, Bill was sent to Guam and he was there when the war ended. Two weeks after the war was over, Bill found himself in Qingdao, China. It was there that Bill befriended a small Chinese boy named Charlie. Men in Bill’s unit were able to persuade their commanding officers to allow Charlie to live in the Barracks with the rest of the men. Just a few short months later, the men who had fought in WWII were told they could go home. Bill was first in line, knowing he would probably never see Charlie again.

After Okinawa, Guam, and China Bill finally arrived home to Chicago where he worked as a large machinery mechanic for the electric company. It wasn’t too long, however, that Bill felt the need to once again serve his country. During the Korean War Bill received two purple hearts only to return home after the war to continue his job art the electric company. After his retirement Bill worked for the school district as their maintenance manager where the kids kept this remarkable man young.

“We went in as boys, but came out men,” said Bill.  Bill entered the service as a seventeen your old boy and did indeed come out a man. His life is simple if you merely write it down on paper, listing the main points, but it has definitely not been easy. I want to thank Bill so much for the laughs, the stories, and the lives that have been changed because of his life.

Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Though we will never fully understand what these Marines and Charlie when though, we are honored to see their joy, the bitterness of war, and to experience their hearts.

The whole crew at Prince Gong’s Mansion
 Today we flew into Beijing where we spent some time touring the city. We went to Prince Gong’s Mansion, which was really pretty.  We all had a great time exploring it the mansion and seeing a piece of Chinese history. Tomorrow we will continue to tour the city of Beijing.

Daniel Mallette

Nurse Lori and Carl Frost

Mr. and Mrs. Mullinax in Prince Gong’s Mansion

Amy James , who went to School with Charlie, has been a great addition to this trip.


Sarah and Nathan with their veterans Carl Frost

Students enjoyed a walk on the beach.
 It is hard to believe that our time in Qingdao is coming to an end and we will soon be traveling to the historical city of Beijing. Today was our last day in this beautiful, coastal city; therefore, it is only fitting that we spent some time at the beach. It was wonderful to take in the scenery and feel the cool sea breeze as we walked the shore and looked at different merchants selling their unique trinkets.

I have learned so much in the past few days of touring this city, most of which has come from my veteran, Carl Frost. Mr. Frost was stationed in Qingdao when he was 17 years old. He spent his time here as a transport driver for the many people who came and went from the base. Mr. Frost said this city has changed so much since he was here in the 1940s. When he was stationed in Qingdao he said their was one dirt road that ran through the main part of the city and the tallest building was only four stories. However, now Qingdao is filled with tall skyscrapers, highways, and lots of people. It is so fun to see Mr. Frost's excitement at all the changes that have occurred since he was here.

It  has been such a joy to hear the many stories Mr. Frost has to share with Nathan and I. My favorite story  Mr. Frost told me was that he used to travel into town almost everyday to run an errand or pick someone up from the nearby airbase. During these trips, Mr. Frost would often find Charlie, put his bicycle in the back of his truck and take him to school. He would then wait until Charlie got inside the doors just in case anyone would give him a hard time about riding in a Marine car.

This story completely encompasses the kind of man that Mr. Frost is. Throughout this trip he has been nothing but kind-hearted, joyful and generous to everyone he is around. It has been such a blessing to see the way Mr. Frost lives out his faith in Christ everyday of his life, and I am so grateful just to be able to sit and hear the stories and lessons he is so willing to tell.

Mr. Frost has changed me, he showed me the importance of kindness, service to one's country, putting others before myself and most of all, loving Jesus through all things. I am excited to continue this story on to Beijing and hopefully learn even more from such a wonderful man.

Sarah Unruh


Daniel and Chelsea took Mr. Helmlinger to go shopping for his wife.

Tonight we enjoyed a nice walk on the busy streets of Qingdao to a local restaurant.

Mr. Marsh is always up for trying new things...even squid soup.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Daniel Keech listens to veteran Colonel Bob Helmlinger describe his memories of China.
 Harry S Truman once stated, “The Marine Corps is the Navy's police force and as long as I am President that is what it will remain." In 1945 a group of men uprooted themselves and moved to China as part of a group known as the “China Marines.” These same men, who were once a police force in China, are the heroes I am honored to return to China with today.

Today we returned to the racetrack where Colonel Bob Helmlinger played football in 1947 and 1948. The colonel said, "I was the one who did most of the ball carrying."  As I watch my veteran interact with those on our trip, his love of Texas and football is only rivaled by his love for the United States Marine Corps. I couldn't ask for a better role model and friend.

The same place where the Colonel played football eventually became the historical ground on which the Japanese presence in China surrendered in August of 1945 at the end of World War II. William Marsh, another veteran accompanying us, witnessed the Japanese surrender while standing in formation. Mr. Marsh was one of 18,000 in an entire marine division. As Mr. Helmlinger answered our questions, he managed to orient himself from what is now just a soccer field, to find the exact place the Japanese surrender took place.

William Marsh pointed to the location where the Japanese surrendered.

Aside from reliving his history in China, Colonel Helmlinger is soon to celebrate his sixty-third wedding anniversary with his wife, Denise. He fills the gap in our conversations with her mannerisms and routinely reminds me of how beautiful she is. "She looks 30 years younger than she actually is,” he says. Today we had some more free time and we spent the afternoon scouring a department store for the perfect gift for Denise. Tonight was a brooch; tomorrow night we will look for a silk scarf. His love for his wife, his fellow marines, and the Corps itself gives me both a glimpse of the past and hope for my future in the Corps.
The day concluded in our hotel where we visited and reminisced about our day. Amongst an array of tofu, fish, and mussels, our group is once again preparing ourselves for another day of education and life changing experiences with our veterans.
Daniel J Keech

Col Helmlinger, Mr. Marsh, Nancy Kelley, Charlie Tsui, and Mr. Don Sexton
at the field where Japanese troops surrendured at the end of WWII.

After supper students asked Charlie, and his Son, David, questions about their time in Qingdao. 

Home Again

Sarah Unruh, Carissa Westfall, and Chelsea Paulsen enjoy touring Qingdao.

Charlie stands in a room of the house he
and his wife built for their young family.
A view of one of the rooms in
Charlie's former home in Qingdao

My veteran, Mr. William Marsh, and I first met in the Chicago airport. Mr. Marsh seemed like a quiet man that would keep to himself, however, I soon found out I was incredibly wrong! Mr. Marsh is a spunky man with lots of energy! We often race down the street to our next destination. Mr. Marsh was in China for about a year, and he was one of the first Marines to meet Charlie. It has been difficult for him to remember everything that occurred while he was here, but I really enjoy hearing what he does remember. One of his favorite memories, like many of the Marines, was taking Charlie out on leave, and taking him to the movies. Mr. Marsh said that the Marines got more of a kick out of watching Charlie's reactions to the movies than the actual movie itself.

This morning we drove to Charlie's old house where he raised his family. As we all piled off the bus, there was a sea of family members there to greet Charlie. They were excited to take him back to his house and they quickly led the way, urging Charlie to follow. We soon found ourselves in narrow alleyways filled with people and honking cars. All 33 of us squeezed down the alleyways to get to Charlie's house. Charlie and his family built the house by hand shortly after Charlie and Jin Mie were married. From the moment we opened the metal doors to the front yard of the house, Charlie and his son David were flooded with emotions. Charlie was sad to see that the new owners of his house didn’t take very good care of it, but he was grateful to have the chance to see it once more.
With tears running down his cheeks, David told me how difficult it was for him to be back at this house. David had been born in the house and this was only the second time he had seen it since he moved to America at the age of 14. David said there were some joyous times in the house, but also many hardships. His family was very poor and had very little. He said it was hard when he had to babysit his siblings while his parents were working. Some of David's favorite memories are the times he got to spend with his siblings playing games. It was very humbling to hear about how David’s family was thankful for each other, even though they didn't have a lot. They knew everything would be all right if they stuck together. Today was a good reminder to us students that family is important, and that we can make it through the hardest of times if we lean on God and have each other.

Free time in Qingdao
After visiting Charlie’s old home we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon exploring the city. We started the afternoon by going to a four story department/grocery store. The store was basically a Macy's and Wal-Mart rolled into one. There was something for everyone: scarves, jewelry, watches, tea, chopsticks, tea pots, clothing, and shoes were all options. It was similar to the malls we have in America, but there was a lot more stuff packed into one area.
After everyone had found some souvenirs to take back home we went to the May Fourth Square. The May Fourth Square is a beautiful park near the ocean and just a short walk from our hotel. In the square there is a beautiful fountain with lights all around the grass. Near the water kites filled the sky.  Many of us were given the opportunity to fly a kite, and we had a blast learning how to get the kites in the air without getting tangled up in all the other lines that were very close. After flying kites we put our bartering skills to work and got many small kites to bring back as gifts for friends and family. We really enjoyed walking the boardwalk and taking in the culture of Qingdao; it was a much needed relaxing afternoon.

Today was a great day filled with tears and laughter. I really enjoyed seeing where Charlie lived and spending some free time together getting to know each other better.
Chelsea Paulsen

Charlie, Jin Mie, and their son David stand in front of the
door where their picture was taken in 1983.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


What causes a memory to be so ingrained in one's mind that he can come back 65 years later and remember every small detail? It could be the love that Charlie felt from the Marines, or it could be the days Charlie spent practicing drills with Love Company. The times he enjoyed with the Marines would become the most memorable days of his childhood and throughout his life.
Nathanial Hartsell and Carissa Westfall stand
with veteran Don Sexton in front of the barracks.
I have been paired with a veteran, Don Sexton, who is a southern boy from North Carolina like myself. Don was put on post to guard supplies from being stolen by Chinese gangs. While on duty in Qingdao, he has wonderful memories of his days with Charlie. They bunked in the same room, ate at the mess hall, and made their beds together.
Today, our tour took us to Qingdao Marine Base, which was first built by the Germans, taken over by Japanese, and then occupied by the US Marines when the Japanese were forced out. Charlie told us many stories about his beloved experiences with the Marines. One of Charlie’s favorite things to do was to watch movies, his favorite being westerns. His favorite actors were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. He would sit at the theaters and watch the movies time after time, even if it was the same movie three times in a row.

Veteran Don Sexton
 Charlie attended a Chinese school the first few years of his education. He did not enjoy the school, however, and he sometimes skipped school to swim at the beautiful beach down the road. Later, when an American school was built the Love Company took up a donation every month in order to send Charlie there instead. Charlie liked the American school and he especially loved his teacher, Sister Blanda. Sister Blanda taught him what it meant to live for Christ and he greatly respected her. The school is still intact today and is still being used as a school. As we stood in front of the school gates, Charlie shared his childhood memories and how he became friends with Nancy Kelley and Amy James, who were both born and spent their childhoods in Qingdao. Amy was born to a German family and Nancy was born to an American family where her father was an import and export merchant.

Amy James, Nancy Kelley and Charlie remember back to their
 childhoods as they walk to their former school building in Qingdao.

 A beautiful landmark called the Pagoda Pier was the last stop for the day. It was an emotional place for Charlie and his Marine friends. This was the place were Charlie had to part with his Marine friends as they returned to America. Tears were shed and hugs were exchanged as boats took the Marines back to America.
 Today was a happy and emotional day for Charlie and the Marines. Getting to visit the places where they lived so long ago brought back serious, but mostly enjoyable memories for Charlie as he recollected his time at the Marine base, the American school, and Pagoda Pier.
 Nathaniel Hartsell

Charlie walks though the halls of his old barracks remembering his time
with the Marines.

A Long Awaited Reunion

Liliana Ovington walks with veteran Dominick Liberatore at St. Michael's Cathedral.

Where do I begin? Today was our first full day in Qingdao, and the events that filled our day accomplish part of the purpose of why we came to China.

 After a sleep-filled night and a late start to the morning, we began our day with breakfast. I could feel the anticipation and excitement that filled the veterans and the students as they ate; they were ready. Ready to see where these men and women spent a part of their lives and how they were changed because of it. Our first stop was the beach. There were hundreds of people around celebrating the season of when the Communist party took over mainland China.

 This beach was where many of the Marines and Chinese people would go to spend their leisure time as well as where Charlie was taught to swim. The weather was beautiful and Charlie said we were lucky to come at this time because autumn was the most beautiful time of the year.

Our second stop today was St. Michael's Cathedral. This cathedral had significant importance to both Charlie and the Marines. St. Michael's Cathedral was the location of Charlie’s baptism by Cardinal Spellman. When Charlie was young, a nun named Sister Blanda, taught him the importance of his faith in the Lord. As Charlie said, it was Sister Blanda who made him who he is today.

Charlie told us his story of being baptized, his relationship with Sister Blanda, and the importance of who God is in his life today. It was so fascinating and heartwarming to hear Charlie declare his faith openly even though it caused him to be persecuted and ostracized.
My veteran, Dominick Liberatore is from the First Marine Regiment and knew Charlie at the barracks. It has been great to hear his stories. He is from New York and by his accent you would definitely know it if you ever met him. He remembered many stories from St. Michael's Cathedral including being the best man in his friend's wedding to a Chinese woman, only to be sent to the brig directly after it ended because his friend was not allowed to get married. Oh to hear his stories... Dominick grew up in Yonkers, New York in a family with very little income. He joined the Marines at age 16 and was sent to training camp in South Caroline two weeks later. I think I have only tapped the beginning of his experiences in China but his excitement at being back in Qingdao and his enthusiasm for life has made me even more excited to share these days with him. He is a joy!

Charlie stands in front of St. Michael's
Cathedral where he was baptized.
After lunch we departed for what would be the pinnacle of the day. We loaded up on our bus and traveled to another section of Qingdao. This section of the city is poor and not many foreigners go there. We were stared at as strangers and celebrities as we got off our bus, but the real celebrity tonight was Charlie. As we got off the bus and went into a building, dozens of Charlie’s friends and relatives were there to see him. Tears of joy ran down his face and many of those there who witnessed the reuniting of families and friends who had been apart for 29 years. Member after member of Charlie his and wife, Jin Mie’s, family came up to hug him and share tears of happiness to be together. Among the family members was Charlie's older brother who Charlie thought had died a long time ago. The reunion was beautiful!

Charlie is reunited with a dear friend.
We then made our way upstairs where Charlie shared of his life, his thankfulness to his family and friends, his joy of being reunited, and of his faith. He believes so strongly that God has brought him to where he is today. No matter how anyone looks at him, either as a traitor to his country or as a hero, he gives all the credit to God Almighty. What a witness and challenge to everyone there, including me, to be bold and strong in our faith. He emphasized that all of his relatives and friends, although not all believers, knew there is an almighty God. Charlie then shared music, both Chinese and American, to show that the Lord encompasses all things.

 There are so many great things that happened today, and these were just a few of the highlights. I am overjoyed to be able to walk through these memories with the men and women on this trip. The experiences of today only bring more excitement for what will happen tomorrow and the next. The joy, emotions, and memories shared by Charlie and the veterans have impacted my life already and I thank God I am here and able to relive this period in history with them.

 Liliana Ovington

Chelsea Paulsen enjoys the bus ride to St. Michael's Cathedral with veteran William Marsh.