Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Medal for My Neighbors

"Our Local Colors!"

A l o h a


Welcome to My Honolulu Town !

We are more than hotels

We have sweet little neighborhoods,
some with Diamond Head presiding.
(See it peeping up at the end of the street?)

We have great neighbors like these guys:

442nd Veterans at Rue de 442 sign, Bruyeres: (left to right) Art Iwasaki, George Kanatani, Sam Sakamoto, Nelson Akagi,
Fumio “Steve” Shimizu, Lawson Sakai. Photo: Ellen Sawamura, PhD

Last weekend, my (blog)invisible husband and I were having lunch at a nearby ZIPPY's (Hawaii's local chain restaurant) when a quartet of local men in their 80's & 90's were seated nearby. Their weathered skin, white hair, and white shirts caught my attention. Were they?


having come from a memorial event they were all wearing polo shirts displaying the familiar patch of the 442. (Honored at top above)

Those old guys were true heroes,
and my eyes
filled with tears. . .

Today, Honolulu born President Obama signed a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to these men: the Japanese-American heroes of World War II, a dwindling number
of whom still live
among us here in our Honolulu Town

The medal is being collectively awarded to the legendary "Go For Broke" regiment, made up of the 100th infantry battalion and the 442nd regimental combat team who volunteered to fight for the U.S. in World War II even as their loyalty to the country was questioned..

Two-thirds were from Hawaii, including our U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.

“These men served the nation at a pivotal moment in our history, displaying their heroism and courage on two fronts: abroad in the fight against an absolutist fascism and at home in the face of the intolerance of racial injustice,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the bill’s chief sponsor in the House.

These fellows served even though they were branded “enemy aliens” and rendered ineligible for the draft. Some enlisted while their families were detained in internment camps.

They saw some of the most brutal fighting in WWII, suffering some 800 casualties in France rescuing the “Lost Battalion” of the 36th Division.

Senator Inouye left his arm
on the battlefields of Italy.

By the end of the war, they had become the most highly decorated military unit in U.S. history for size and length of service.

And they were some of the first Allied troops to enter the Nazi death camps.

“Their perseverance, humility and strength enabled them to triumph over life’s adversities. We must never forget the Japanese-American men and women ... who nobly served to defend their country at a time when their patriotism was in doubt,” said Rep. Hirono, D-Hawaii.

Her (interim, and soon to be electorally defeated) colleague from Hawaii, Rep. Charles Djou (in a rare example of Republican agreeability) said the medal was a sign of well-deserved respect from Congress. Their willingness to volunteer and to serve, despite facing discrimination, earned them the honor he said.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said the experience of the Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans, should be remembered so the U.S. doesn’t treat another group of Americans the same way.

The medal will be given to the Smithsonian Institution, which will make it available for research, and for display in places associated with the units. (The legislation authorizes the Treasury to make bronze duplicates.) This highest civilian honor awarded by Congress has been given selectively since 1776, when George Washington was awarded the first.

Other honorees include the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks and the Dalai Lama.

The Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black fighter pilots that I posted about HERE, received the medal in 2007.

Today, Hawaii-based troops continue to display the "torch" patch in conflict zones globally.

War sucks,
But heroes must be honored.

I'm just so moved!