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SOLDIERS, VETERANS OBSERVE MONUMENT'S NINTH ANNIVERSARY
(Los Angeles, CA – June 14, 2008) – Six soldiers wearing World War II uniforms marched with precision carrying the American flag alongside the colors of their unit, the 100th /442nd. But, these were not the Nisei veterans. They are members of today’s 100th Battalion/442nd Infantry Regiment, 29th Brigade, a Hawaii-based Army Reserve unit that traces its history back to the Japanese Americans who answered the call to duty 65 years ago.
In an atmosphere of pride and poignancy, veterans and active soldiers joined together to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the Go For Broke National Monument on Saturday, June 14. The day's events included an announcement that the Go For Broke National Education Center would be "adopting" the 1,500 soldiers of the 29th Brigade, which is training for upcoming deployment to Kuwait and Iraq.
National Education Center President and CEO Christine Sato-Yamazaki opened the program reminding attendees that the Nisei veterans' story is powerful and with closer examination, it is their character of courage, determination, perseverance and their values of love and duty to country that was the reason they served with distinction. She continued, "Their legacy and the Go For Broke spirit continues to live on through the young soldiers who are serving our country today."
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, a member of the National Education Center's board of directors, announced that the organization is coordinating a nationwide effort by Nisei veterans' clubs, auxiliaries, and affiliated groups to help provide moral support to the soldiers bound for the Middle East.
Tritia Toyota, Ph.D., adjunct professor at UCLA and former broadcast journalist, guided the proceedings as emcee.
"I see a country and a world much better for your sacrifice. You fought for liberty even though your own liberties were taken away," Brigadier General (ret) James T. Hirai, a Hawaii Sansei and son of an MIS veteran, told the WWII vets in his keynote address. Hirai serves as Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Honolulu. He retired from active duty with the U.S. Army in March, 2006. His last active duty assignment was as Deputy Commanding General of U. S. Army Pacific in Afghanistan.
"Please tell your story often. Support and encourage others to do the same," he stated in discussing ways to bring the "Go For Broke" achievements to the attention of all Americans.
Hirai also noted that June 14 is Flag Day, the 231st anniversary of Old Glory. "I'm impressed by the turnout of you veterans. You continue to be examples by your modesty and perseverance, and you are the soldiers I want to celebrate with."
Major General Robert G.F. Lee, Adjutant General of Hawaii, Department of Defense, represented the 29th Brigade, of which the 100th/442nd is one of the units. He noted that, as the Army had done during WWII, it looks to the 100th/442nd today to take on challenging assignments. In 2006, during its first deployment to Iraq, the unit provided security and oversaw the successful completion of two critical elections.
"If there is a tough mission, assign it to the Go For Broke soldiers…and they will get it done…following in the footsteps of their predecessors," Gen. Lee said.
In June 2006, Gen. Lee was instrumental in convincing the Army to name a C-17 "Spirit of Go For Broke" even though the request had been rejected years earlier. William E. Kelley, Senior Manager of Business Development in the Global Mobility Systems Division of the Boeing Company and a former U.S. Air Force officer, presented a replica of the plane to the WWII veterans.
Since being put into service, the Spirit of Go For Broke has flown more than 400 missions and 1.5 million miles carrying troops and supplies, bringing the wounded home, and assisting with disaster relief in various parts of the world.
The anniversary event represented the culmination of a personal journey for Major Keith Horikawa, a member of the current 100th/442nd whose father served in the MIS. The name of Major Horikawa's father, Louis Horikawa, was added to the Monument and the National Education Center's board member, Doug Goto, presented a name etching of the newly added name to Horikawa and his mother.
Major Horikawa, an Iraq combat veteran, also serves as a detective with the Honolulu Police Department. He is scheduled to be deployed to the Middle East once more in the coming months. Horikawa is married and has three children.
Bringing their musical gifts to the June 14 ceremony were Denise Iketani, Michael Palma, and former National Education Center staff member Helen Ota. In addition to singing the National Anthem, the performers led the audience in the "Go For Broke Fight Song," a song that was written in 1944 by Nisei soldiers and is still the official song of the 100th Battalion/442nd Infantry Regiment active today.
Presenting floral tributes were Lt. Col. Michael Peeters, in honor of the fallen soldiers of the 100th/442nd; Toke Yoshihashi and his daughter Pauline Yoshihashi, representing the original 100th Infantry Battalion; Tets Asato and granddaughter Robyn Tofukuji, 442nd Regimental Combat Team; Manabi Hirasaki, 522nd Field Artillery; Roger Eaton, 232nd Combat Engineer Company; Clyde Kusatsu, whose uncle Sukeichi Kusatsu served in the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion; James Murata and his grandson Michael, Military Intelligence Service and Toshiro Obara, Reiyukai America.
Members of the Color Guard, who flew in from Hawaii for the event, included Sgt. First Class Rene Baliscao, Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Rosales, Sgt. Joshua Louie Bagorio, Sgt. Nakoa Hoe, Sgt. Len Tanaka, and Specialist Isaac Nunies.
Also on hand for the program were members of Boy Scout Troop 442, who came from Bakersfield and were named for the famed WWII Nisei unit.
National Education Center Board Chairman Bill Seki brought the event to a close by thanking the guest speakers and participants. "They're humble but they're truly the greatest heroes that we have," he reminded the crowd of about 300.
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