A former Hickam airman returns for his place in history

John Psencik
John Psencik
Phyllis Psencik
Phyllis Psencik

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE (KHNL) - A former Hickam Air Force airman returned to Hawaii, fifty years after he was part of a key moment in state history. Airman 2nd Class John Psencik played a symbolic role when Hawaii became the 50th state.

It's a morning ritual for military folks, the raising of the American flag. This Hickam honor guard lets "Old Glory" fly, as military members pay their respects.

"I'm real, real proud of it," said Psencik, who traveled 3,898 miles with his wife Phyllis to be here.

He lives in a Eagle Lake, Texas, a small farming community in Southeast Texas, but almost fifty years ago, Psencik was a member of the Hickam honor guard.

"I put myself in their spot," he said. "What I was doing, the same they're doing right now."

Back in 1960, he was a part of history. He helped raise and present the first 50-star American flag to former Hawaii Gov. William Quinn.

"It's amazing and wonderful to see it again," said Psencik.

Now he's back in Hawaii for the first time since that moment, on the fiftieth anniversary of Hawaii's statehood.

"Because John and Phyllis came so far and because john is a part of us, part of our history, I'm going to pass this flag to him," said Gov. Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii. "So he can take it back with him to always remember us."

"Thank you," said Psencik.

"I can't put it in words," said Psencik's wife Phyllis. "Too proud to put in words. Just very, very, very proud."

For Psencik, the flag symbolizes not only our freedom, but the high price of being free.

"Thinking about those people in the war, in Iraq that lost their lives, it means a whole lot to me," he said.

The flag's always been important to Psencik, but this one is extra special.

"I raise my flag every day when I'm at the home, I raise my flag and lower it," he said. "But this one I'm gonna put it on display and pass it on to my grandkids."

He also hopes to pass on this moment to one of the airmen here, on Hawaii's centennial anniversary.

"I think fifty years from now, I think one of them, I think one of them airmen is going to be doing the same thing," said Psencik.

An airman, a flag, and a piece of American history.

The Psenciks are staying in Hawaii for about a week before heading home to Eagle Lake, Texas.