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Heart of a Hero

Since 2012, the Patriots Club has selected a special someone who possesses the "Heart of a Hero." The students in Young Patriots Club describe a hero as someone who is brave, honest, caring, selfless, and puts others' needs above their own.

Patriots Club awards each hero with a military-style ceremony and a luncheon in the spring. Club members delight in welcoming their honored guests on the HKS red carpet with proud salutes, and treat them to a performance of a HKS crowd favorite, "God Bless the USA."

Past Heart of a Hero recipients include:

The first recipient of the Heart of a Hero award, Rear Admiral Lloyd "Joe" Vasey began his career in the US Navy as an original crew member of the battleship USS Missouri. Over the next 20+ years, Vasey would serve on both ships and submarines as a commanding officer.

Pearl Harbor survivor and WWII veteran retired Senior Chief Quartermaster Michael "Mickey" Ganitch was the second recipient of the Heart of a Hero award. He was stationed on the USS Pennsylvania during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Mickey retired in 1963 after 23 years of service in the US Navy.

Mickey was chosen for his bravery and contributions to the military. He continues to serve as a hero in his local community of San Leandro, California.

The child of Japanese immigrants, Takashi Kitaoka was born and raised in Hawai'i. He served in the 100th Infantry Battalion during WWII and received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Congressional Gold Medal. He became the first Maui-born circuit court judge in 1962. 

Kitaoka was selected as the 2014 Heart of a Hero because he embodies selfless service, continued giving, and tenacity. 



Admiral Thomas B. Fargo was the fourth recipient of the Heart of a Hero award.

After graduating from from the Naval Academy in 1970, Fargo spent a distinguished 35-year career in the US Navy. Among his many commands and achievements, Fargo served five assignments on attack and ballistic submarines. Fargo also served as the 29th Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and as Commander, United States Pacific Command (PACOM), at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawai'i, for three years before retiring in 2005.

Admiral Fargo also served as the inspiration for the character of Commander Bart Mancuso in the film The Hunt for Red October.

The 2016 Heart of a Hero recipient, Thomas "Tom" Kahalu Lee, Jr., is an Army and Navy veteran. After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1999, he was personally moved to serve again in the Army following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Tom Lee is a recipient of a Purple Heart, after losing his right leg above the knee while serving in Iraq. Lee is a competetive paratriathlete and serves as the Military Affairs Liaison to Governor David Ige.

Maj. Patrick Miller, exemplified bravery and courage through his heroic acts in Fort Hood, Texas. In April 2014, while stationed at Fort Hood, Miller came face-to-face with an active shooter on base. The gunman had gone on a shooting spree before entering the building where Miller worked. Miller encountered the gunman in the hallway, where he shot Miller with a .45-caliber bullet, hitting him two inches below his heart and embedding in his back. While keeping pressure on his wound, Miller was able to make his way to his office and lock the door, where he called 911 with his free hand. Acting quickly to protect his fellow soldiers, Miller lead them to his personal office and locked the door. Miller was the last person shot before Military Police confronted the gunman, who then took his own life. Three were killed and 16 wounded in the attack.

Over 45 minutes passed with a lockdown in place before an ambulance was able to make its way to Miller’s location. Miller was forced to climb out a window to seek medical attention.

Miller is a 2015 recipient of the Soldier’s Medal. He is currently stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) where he serves as a resource manager.

Carole and Jim Hickerson are American patriots. They have done so much for our country throughout the Vietnam and Cold Wars.

Carole’s first husband, Steve, went to Vietnam and sadly perished in a firefight with Vietnam soldiers after his helicopter crashed. Back home, Carole knew nothing about where her husband was or if he was even still alive because of President Nixon’s law that forbid anyone from speaking about what was going on in Vietnam. It was named the “suffer in silence policy”. Carole decided that this needed to end so she decided to speak up. Little did she know, her future husband was serving in Vietnam as a A-7 pilot. He was shot down over north Vietnam and was captured. Little did he know, he would spend over five years in a Vietnam prison before he would meet his future wife Carole.
At that time Carole was fighting her own battle. She was working with a group called the American League of Families to put pressure on the Vietnam government. It also put pressure on the U.S. government to revoke the “suffer in silence” policy. With the help of Carole’s tireless work, that policy was silently revoked. The League of Families was also working abroad. They went on two world tours to try to get into Vietnam but were denied both times. Back home, Carole got support from many people including John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Peter Fonda and President Nixon’s staff. The war was coming to an end but Carole still knew nothing about her husband. One night she was invited to a White House reception for POW’s. There she met Frank Cius. He was a crewmember on Steve’s helicopter when it went down. He said that Steve could not have made it out alive. Carole was grateful to finally have an inkling about what happened to Steve. With this information and her determination to help others, she eventually created the logo used on the MIA/POW flag that features Steve’s silhouette. Capt. Jim Hickerson was born in 1934 in North Carolina. He joined the Navy through his ROTC in college. Soon after, he went into the active duty military. His first assignment was to flight school where he became a Naval aviator. He then went to fly A-4s in California. He also became the fifth naval aviator to ever fly the A-7 and he joined the first A-7 squadron. With this squadron he deployed to Vietnam and was shot down on December 22, 1967 and became a POW for over 5 years.
At a reception for POW’s in 1973, Carole was unknowingly sitting next to her future husband, former Prisoner of War Capt. Jim Hickerson. Jim and Carole became friends and a relationship slowly evolved. In 1974 they got married when Steve’s status was officially changed to “killed in action.” Now they are a very active part in the community. Jim retired from the Navy in 1984 and took a job as a defense contractor. They came out to Hawaii in 2000 when Jim was asked to head a new island office. Currently they are both members of the Navy League and the Pacific Aviation Museum.


For more information about the HKS Patriots Club, please see the Patriots Club page.