I've often wondered how a student from Hawaii could possibly choose Notre Dame. To travel over 5,000 miles from paradise to South Bend is undeniably a shock to the system--in more ways than one. However, learning about the life of Reid Nishizuka through "Live Like Reid" has helped me understand why young men and women from the 50th state come to the Golden Dome: Ohana.
Reid Nishizuka, a native Hawaiian and 2005 graduate left the Notre Dame family too soon. An aerospace engineer, he joined the Air Force, earning 15 awards across more than 200 missions. In 2013, he served in Operation Enduring Freedom. Tragically, he did not return to Hawaii or Notre Dame. However, his spirit lives on in both homes, today.
In 2019, a program known as Folds of Honor worked with the Irish women's golf team to honor Captain Nishizuka. Senior golfer, Mia Ayer was chosen to carry a red, white and blue golf bag bearing his name. "It looks pretty sharp," Ayer said. "I like it." The bag serves as a reminder and an opportunity for Ayer to speak to others about the program, the honoree and raise awareness.
"When I see the crowd respond to our loss, it's an incredible experience," said Ricky.
During the national anthem a fly over took place. "We noticed it was the exact same plane that Reid piloted. It brought back so many memories because we had an experience of seeing Reid in the cockpit coming in for a landing. It brought me that image once again. I can never forget it," said Ricky.
Ricky and Norene will not be forgotten at Notre Dame either. They found Ohana in the relationships built on the field as they met three football players from Hawaii and as they stood with Mia between them during half time. I love that the Nishizukas brought gifts for all—blue and gold Hawaiian lei type necklaces. They embraced those a genuine warmth—or kindness—a characteristic of Reid.
When a golfer asked Ricky and Norene to tell them more about Reid, Ricky replied, "Reid's claim to fame was his belief: If you had to choose between being right and being kind, be kind." If only more people in our world would live like Reid.
Ricky Nishizuka reminds us that "in Hawaiian, Aloha means hello and goodbye." Though Reid has died, he lives on. From the shaka that was passed from one person to another to the signs and symbols that speak his name and illuminate his memory. Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ writes "—for Christ plays in ten thousand places." Indeed.
As the week of Veterans' Day comes to a close, I am reminded by the sacrifice so many people and their families make to defend our freedom. Thank you Reid, thank you Ricky and Norene. Thank you, Notre Dame.
All from Live Like Reid