On Dec. 2, seven College of the Ozarks students and six WWII Veteran survivors of the Battle of Guadalcanal will travel to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the campaign, which began Aug. 7, 1942 and lasted until Feb. 9, 1943.
The Battle of Guadalcanal, the first major offensive by Allied forces against Japan, resulted in nearly 40,000 Allied and Japanese deaths. Five of the students traveling with Veterans on this historic journey have direct family ties to the battle. Veterans participating in the trip Charles Monroe, John Christiansen, Chester Thomason, Theron MacKay, Elmer Hawkins and Paul Castiglione all served in the campaign.
During the trip, the contingent will travel by ship to the various islands, such as Guadalcanal and Gizo, which comprise the Solomon chain. They will tour what were hospitals and airstrips once vital components to the campaign. They will lay wreaths in waters littered with wreckages where hundreds perished in battle.
Students will have the opportunity to learn about personal experiences from the Veterans, like the time Charles Monroe, a fighter pilot, crash landed on the Japanese side of Guadalcanal, received help from the island natives and was able to return to his chore of flying in torpedo runs. They are also likely to hear about Paul Castiglione’s account of how one ham sandwich made the difference between life and death for him, as taking an extra few minutes to enjoy the treat spared him from a shelling attack.
This trip is part of the College of the Ozarks Patriotic Education Travel Program, wherein students accompany veterans to their fields of battle to learn about history and sacrifice from the individuals who lived it. Student participants relish the opportunity to learn from the veterans and understand that they are in a unique position to learn and pass on precious historical accounts. During the journey, students will record the Veterans’ stories and the trip by journaling, using voice recorders and keeping a travel blog.
The College recognizes patriotic education travel as a powerful opportunity to reinforce one of the five goals of the College, patriotic education. The rich educational journey provides a life-changing experience for College of the Ozarks students, who not only learn volumes of history from participants, but grow to love and appreciate them as well. Since the inaugural trip taken in 2009, 12 trips have been taken with a total of 173 students and 73 Veterans participating. For more information on the Patriotic Education Travel Program, please visit To follow the students and Veterans journey to the Solomon Islands, go to
College of the Ozarks is a four-year, fully accredited, Christian work college located in southwest Missouri. At “Hard Work U” students don’t pay a penny of tuition. Instead they work campus jobs at one of more than 80 campus workstations ranging from a restaurant to dairy farm. Upon their participation in the Work Education Program, the College guarantees to cover the entire cost of their education, allowing them to graduate debt-free. Working for one’s education has been a distinctive tradition of the institution since its founding.

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