San Francisco Nisei veterans honored

'PATRIOTS OF UNCOMMON VALOR AND CHARACTER' ­— House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi presented the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to veterans. photo by Kahn Yamada

In a brief, emotion-filled ceremony highlighted by words of praise from House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Japanese American veterans who served in World War II were honored at the Congressional Gold Medal Northern California Regional Tribute on April 22 in San Francisco’s Japantown.

In all, more than 350 people, some of whom traveled as far as Los Angeles and Loomis, Calif., gathered at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California’s gym for the event recognizing the heroism of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.

With KTVU-TV reporter Robert Handa serving as the master of ceremonies, the program, which ran for little more than an hour, included welcoming remarks from Bryan Yagi, president of the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) and co-chairman of the ceremony. In addition, there was a congratulatory video from President Barack Obama, who lauded the veterans for “believing in America when America didn’t believe in you. You are patriots, pure and simple.”

Brig. Gen. James Cook, Cmdr. 91st Division of the U.S. Army Reserve, called the event a “special moment” and said the veterans “leave a legacy for the children,” lessons of “duty, honor and country.”

Pelosi, who was at the Nov. 2 Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Nisei veterans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., was the key speaker at the San Francisco event. She spoke about the bipartisan effort — led by California members of Congress, including Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Adam Schiff — who forged ahead and got a bill to honor the veterans that was signed by President Obama in 2010. She also singled out World War II veteran and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, for his contributions and those of Eric K. Shinseki, the director of the Veterans Affairs Bureau.

“Our Japanese American veterans are patriots of uncommon valor and character,” Pelosi wrote in her congratulatory letter. “While their families were being subjected to internment and injustice, they proved their loyalty to our country, and, even after their exemplary service of distinction, they returned to a nation still facing discrimination.

“We are saddened about those veterans who are no longer with us, particularly those who never came home. They were great patriots for a just cause and for the American ideal of equality, which is our heritage and our hope.”

During the April 22 ceremony, the audience fell silent as the names and faces of those Nisei veterans who were killed in action flashed on a screen, one by one.

“I thought the ceremony went well,” Yagi said. “It was good to see many families in the crowd, especially the Sansei, Yonsei, and maybe some Gosei to honor their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and uncles. After all, it is for the younger generations to preserve the legacy of the Nisei. The 300-plus in attendance exceeded any and all expectations — in a good way, for example, honoring our veterans. It was also nice that we were able to present replica medals to the widows of these veterans. All the medals presented were due to the generous donation of co-chairperson Steven Hirabayashi.”

Yagi also praised Pelosi and Cook’s participation, describing it as “icing on the cake.”

CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL AWARDEES ­—House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi shook the hands of veterans and widows at the awards ceremony. photo by Jon Kawamoto

“Rep. Pelosi was gracious to not only present medals to all the veterans on stage, but to meet and shake the hands of the widows of the veterans,” Yagi said. “I thought of how lucky I was to have been a participant and observer of such a tribute to our Nisei and Kibei World War II veterans. I thought of my own uncle, Tom Yagi, who was a medic with Company L of the 442nd RCT and could not be present because he passed away some years ago. Nonetheless, we as Sansei and Yonsei owe so much to the Issei and the Niseigenerations that this was the least I could do to repay them.”

Yagi said the idea to hold regional Congressional Gold Medal ceremonies was discussed by a variety of organizations and communities throughout the country for the veterans who could not attend the Washington ceremony. Yagi emphasized that the organizations acted independently from each other.

Hawai‘i was the first to host a regional ceremony in December, since so many of the vets came from the 50th state, Yagi said. Ceremonies followed in Seattle, San Jose, Fresno and other cities. In addition to the San Francisco ceremony, there were similar events held on April 22 in Chicago and in Glendale, Ariz.

“After attending the CGM ceremony in Seattle, in January, (NJAHS Executive Director) Rosalyn (Tonai) suggested we should host a ceremony since there were so many veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California that also did not attend the (Washington,) D.C., ceremony,” Yagi said. “I agreed.”

The first committee meeting was held on March 12. Yagi praised the numerous volunteers who stepped forward to donate their time, energy and ideas in such a short period.

The NJAHS, Golden Gate Nisei Memorial VFW Post 9879 and the San Francisco Nikkei Lions Club hosted the tribute.

Comments

  1. Tax Credit to Corporations hiring Veterans?I think this is staritng to piss me off. Tax breaks to hire people who are probably more qualified than most of the public. WHY OH WHY should they get Tax Breaks?? This is one of those places we should be talking about SHARED SACRIFICE. It was also the corporation’s war,protection of freedom, homeland security and they were the ones who have already benefitted the most from it. So now we need to bribe them to hire these Veterans??Along this same line whomever was injured in a war should be able to walk into any American Establishment be fitted with Eyes Ears Noses, Arms Legs Wheelchairs whatever they need, GRATUS. Paid for by the establishment not the Taxpayer.Its called S h a r e d S a c r i f i c e

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