By Leigh Leilani Graham, Guam Area Director
Tumon Bay, Guam – David Fisher has been committed to America’s service members his entire life.
Growing up, he was a military child. Then, Fisher followed in his father’s footsteps and was an Air Force ROTC cadet in college. Now, he continues to serve the active-duty military community as a volunteer at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport USO.
Yet those formative years of living as an Air Force dependent on Guam are what prompted him to make the trip of a lifetime back to the small, Pacific island, almost 50 years after he left, to visit his old haunts and see the two new USO locations.
Growing up on Guam, Rock n’ Roll Style
Like most active-duty dependents, Fisher moved around with his father’s job, the most notable relocation being from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during the late 1960s. Fisher remembers Guam as a “wonderful culture shock” for a kid from the Midwest. He found lifelong friends and a commitment to keeping service members connected to home and family when he became part of the Guam community.
When Fisher was a teenager on the island, he became a member of a local rock-n-roll band, the Burlington Express. The band, which was made up of fellow Air Force dependents, mostly entertained military personnel, although they also organized dances, performed on roofs and even skipped the occasional class.
“For me, it was about having fun,” Fisher said. “I was a high school kid with only beach, girls and rock-n-roll on my mind.”
According to the Tropic Topics newspaper, the band entertained more than 100,000 people at their different events on the island, including wounded, ill and injured service members returning from Vietnam. As some point during the band’s active years, a team of supporters formed a group, known as the Burlington Express Hospital Team (BEHT), to work alongside the band when they performed at military hospitals twice a month. Fisher noted that these visits in particular had a tremendous impact on him.
“It was an amazing period of time,” Fisher said. “The music of the 1960s was fantastic, it was the height of the Vietnam war, the island of Guam was beautiful and musical entertainment was in high demand. The band members were proud to have been … [able to] fulfill that demand.”
Returning to the Island, 50 Years Later
In April 2019, David returned to Guam with two members of the BEHT, Rose White and Paula Narramore Hatfield.
In addition to traveling to visit the USO centers and re-visit their childhood home, the trio had a second, nobler mission for their journey: to scatter the ashes of a third BEHT member, Vicki Narramore, who had passed away in 2018.
“It was an honor for me to bring some of her ashes to scatter on Guam during this 50th anniversary visit,” Fisher said. “During some of our final conversations, she shared her pleasure and pride of serving our troops in such a personal way as a member of the BEHT.”
Fisher said the return trip to Guam was a chance to view the island from a new perspective. Instead of remembering the past through the eyes of a high school guitar player, he said he sees his past through the reflection of the musical, social, cultural and political changes that took place in the late 1960s, as well as the through the lens of his own life.
As part of their trip to Guam, Fisher and his wife Julie made a generous $5,000 donation to USO Guam to support its mission of strengthening service members by connecting them to family, home and country throughout their service to our nation.
“Our two centers on Guam welcome more than 100,000 visits each year,” said Leigh Leilani Graham, USO Guam Area Director.
“On an island with a population of only 165,000 where 12,000 are military, that shows just how important the USO mission is to our service members and families. This incredible donation from David Fisher and his spouse represents a lifetime of giving from two very patriotic Americans who understand the many sacrifices required by our military to protect the freedoms of this great nation. USO Guam is forever grateful and we will not forget.”
Always Connected to the USO
After they return home from Guam, the Fishers will step back into their roles as committed USO volunteers and military supporters at the USO center at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
In the past, the couple has cooked for service members, assisted them with their luggage and getting to their departure gates, prepared care packages and even hosted “welcome home” and deployment celebrations.
“I can always tell that this routine means so much to the troops,” Fisher said. “It means a lot to the staff and volunteers as well.”
Fishers says his experiences in today’s USO have provided wonderful context to his adventures on Guam that took place 50 years ago and it enriches his life. He encourages everyone to consider volunteering or to make a financial donation to help the USO carry on its amazing legacy.