where time seems to stand still.
The bond that has united local groups of caring individuals with
soldiers stationed in Iraq has been the ukulele.
The four-stringed Hawaiian instrument, which resembles a small
guitar, has had a profound affect on each side.
"I am amazed at how this has taken off," said Shirley Orlando, the
owner of Island Bazaar, a shop that sells everything Hawaiian and is
home to two ukulele clubs -- the Kolohe Ukulele Players and Ukulele
Orlando, who previously owned Huntington Music for 25 years, was
teaching ukulele club members the song "As Time Goes By" during their
recent Thursday night strum-along.
"The generosity of these people has brought a lot of happiness to
our soldiers," said Orlando, who has written the musical "Surf City
USA," which will make its debut during the 2006 season of the
Huntington Beach Playhouse. "As long as people keep sending money,
we'll keep sending ukuleles. Our ukulele clubs are the ones
responsible for all of this. They've just been wonderful."
It all began last fall, when Orlando told her friend and fellow
ukulele enthusiast, Anita Coyoli-Cullen of Huntington Beach, that she
wanted to send ukuleles to Hawaiian troops stationed in Iraq.
Coyoli-Cullen's daughter, Diane Gilliam, also of Huntington Beach,
was a military intelligence interrogator in the U.S. Army stationed
in Iraq, where she survived a 2003 helicopter crash that killed five
soldiers aboard the aircraft.
"My daughter was telling me what life there was like for our
soldiers," she said. "They are confined to base most of the time and
read and such to pass the time.
"I thought Shirley's idea was great, and when she turned to the
ukulele groups, they in turn made all the rest possible."
Through the legwork of Coyoli-Cullen, the help of Ohana magazine
editor Mel Ozeki and Carrie Takenaka -- the leader of the Units
Family Support Group in Hawaii -- Orlando was able to pack up six
ukuleles and songbooks and send them to the 29th Support Battalion of
the U.S. Army stationed at Camp Anaconda in Iraq.
The battalion commander wrote Orlando, thanking her for the