Saturday, July 4, 2009

Go For Broke

Welcome to Waikiki
on July 4th!
Click on photos to enlarge! The wild blue yonder
"There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified and new prejudices to be opposed."
Samuel Johnson


"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."

Charles DuBois

William H. Holloman III

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

General Eric Shinseki

Today, in honor of July 4th, I re-publish this post about real heroes. Thank you for visiting. Your visits & comments make my day!
*Happy Birthday USA*
You friends who often visit "Da Spiral" know that we like to salute unheralded heroes of everyday life. Heck, I've seen real courage in many of your blogs. But every so often there are Heroes, capitol "H" who strap it on and fly into the teeth of mortal combat, or who put their very lives on the line to say "No" to denigration, unfairness, and abuse. Sometimes extraordinary people are even called upon to face two Goliaths at once.
Today's post is dedicated to two very special groups of such human beings. Please come meet them!

Last September 30th, a few such surviving heroes were honored at Honolulu's Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific by Kauai boy General Eric Shinseki. (The general has since been appointed to lead our nation's veterans affairs by the new president.)

The elderly men that he honored on that day, largely Hawaii born and bred, had served in the famed 442nd & 100th segregated combat units of WWII. They had been the “Go for Broke” Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the toughest European battles of that war, and usually against superior numbers. History remembered, and history written, both tell how they were openly considered expendable because of their race. This was certainly not a surprise to them in their uphill fight for dignity. They all had family in US internment camps, even as German-Americans and Italian-Americans remained in their own homes. Nevertheless these aging men, in their youth answered the call to arms on behalf of the nation that detained their parents.

They are military legend for having saved 230 Texans (the famous “lost” regiment”) at the cost of 400 of their own, among numerous other documented acts of extreme heroism. These men won more decorations, more purple hearts, more medals of honor, than any unit of comparable size in the history of the US Army.

Every day in Honolulu we pass by these neighbors on our streets and in the aisles at Longs Drugs, only too aware that there are ever fewer and fewer of them. In my opinion they are among the greatest of the greatest generation, and what these men did will never be forgotten. . . As President Truman said of them at war's end: "You fought two enemies, the nazis and prejudice. And you have won."

So who could walk alongside such people?

Perhaps it would be the man I had the privilege to meet the other evening. He is William H. Holloman III, one of the justly famed Tuskegee Airmen. But he told me simply to call him "Bill." I was beyond thrilled to sit a spell with Bill and his lovely wife Jean to talk story. It's not every day that one gets to meet such a larger than life figure usually read about in books or admired in documentaries

At a time when "scientists" had told the US Congress that African-Americans had less intelligence and flying aptitude "than monkeys" these young men rose to the challenge of excellence while carrying social and cultural burdens we can scarcely credit today a mere 60 - 70 years later. Through dignity, courage, and sheer ability, they proved denigration a damned lie.

They flew like eagles! And like the Japanese-American combat veterans of Hawaii they came home to build lives of full citizenship earned in blood. Mr. Holloman, whose father might have served the railroad as a Pullman porter - but never an engineer, retired after many years of service as an airline pilot and aviation consultant.

"The Germans shot my black ass down! But they knew all about us, and they treated us with proper military respect. Then I came home and had to ride in the back of the bus." one of these vets has said.

Unfortunately the photo above caught Mr. Holloman with his eyes closed, depriving you of his most strikingly handsome light eyes! But one doesn't ask a legend to stand a second time. And I who religiously avoid publishing photos of myself am proudly shown with him!

A L O H A! Cloudia