Navy veteran celebrates NAU homecoming, shares Pearl Harbor experience

Homecoming events to honor military veterans

Saturday, Oct. 24

Veterans Kickoff Breakfast
7-10 a.m., American Legion Post #3
204 W. Birch Ave.
Recognition medals will be presented to NAU veterans. Cost $5 per person. Contact Neil Goodell at (928) 523-3937 or

Homecoming Parade
11 a.m., downtown Flagstaff
Saluted by a military flyover of F-16s, NAU Alumni Veterans will march with NAU ROTC units in this perennial favorite. Grand Marshal is Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jay Vargas, ’61 & ’01.

Award and Veteran Recognition
at the Football Game

Halftime (kickoff at 3:05 p.m.),
J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome

Veteran Book Signing
4 p.m. to 7 p.m., High Country Conference Center.

Bill Van Zanten, ’62, will sign his personal memoir,Don’t Bunch Up: One Marine’s Story.
Don Price, ’62, is the author of The First Marine Captured in Vietnam, about Capt. Donald Gilbert Cook.

Contact Neil Goodell at (928) 523-3937

Veterans Recognition Dinner
7 p.m., High Country Conference Center

The featured speaker will be U.S. Army assistant deputy chief of staff, Major General Rhett A. Hernandez.
(888) 778-7628.

In the mix of Homecoming activities on campus this week are a number of events to honor alumni who also are veterans.

An NAU Homecoming Veterans Kickoff Breakfast on Oct. 24 will feature recognition medals presented to veteran alumni, including Virgil Hengl, who received his master’s degree in education from NAU in 1964. Hengl also served in the Navy and witnessed the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

Besides completing a career teaching high school in Williams and Yuma, Hengl, 87, remains active in Pearl Harbor survivor groups and continues to educate the public with his first-hand recount of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I remember seeing several Japanese planes flying about 100 feet above the water and strafing some motor launches filled with American sailors heading for liberty in Honolulu,” Hengl recounts in his memoir.

“A most barbaric act. In fact, I feel safe in saying the whole attack was barbaric. We could not fight back because of our unprepared response. Sunday was a day of leisure, plus the surprise of the attack.”

Hengl is looking forward to seeing other alumni veterans during the breakfast, from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at the American Legion Post #3, 204 W. Birch Ave., in Flagstaff.

Hengl’s memories of NAU are more lighthearted.

“I enjoyed my time at NAU. I liked its small scale and the personal attention I got from my professors,” said Hengl, who is the father of NAU alumnus and NAU Foundation Board member Harry Hengl, who is receiving the 2009 Joe and Marie Rolle Spirit of NAU Award this weekend.

For Virgil E. Hengl’s first-hand account of Dec. 7, 1941, aboard Battleship U.S.S.Tennessee, click here.