An Admiral and a General Salute the Veterans
It was an action-packed 11th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner on October 13 at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.
Our thanks to the almost 900 people who attended this year's event, shopped at our silent auction, participated in our live auction and opened their wallets during our Rally the Troops at the close of the evening.
The highlight of the evening is always the veterans' procession which kicks off the evening's festivities. This year, 41 veterans from the 100th Infantry, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service marched into the ballroom to the sound of the Emerald Society Pipe and Drums and very loud applause from the dinner patrons.
The theme of the evening was "Medal of Honor" and the evening's emcee, David Ono of ABC7, debuted a moving short documentary about the four Medal of Honor recipients who are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights near downtown Los Angeles: Joe Hayashi, Sadao Munemori, Kiyoshi Muranaga, and Ted Tanouye.
Retired four-star General David Bramlett provided context on the significance of the achievements of the Nisei soldiers, noting that mentioned is often made of the 21 Medals of Honor that have been awarded, but there is much more to their story of heroism. He explained that the 100th/442nd received seven Presidential Unit Citations, and that there is no other unit that he is aware of that received so many citations in such a short period of time. To receive a Presidential Unit Citation is equivalent to every person in that unit receiving a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military award (after the Medal of Honor) that can be given to a member of the US Army.
He further noted that the Military Intelligence Service received a Presidential Unit Citation for the period from May 1, 1942 through September 2, 1945. According to the General, this citation is unique in that there has never been an award that covers such a prolonged period of service.
He concluded, "These men and their families, their kind may not pass this way again... They surpassed every expectation. They asked for nothing in return except for the rights of citizenship. They have left us a story to tell and a legacy to perpetuate. Let's not let them down."
Vice Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. remarked that he is part of a long line of Asian American admirals and generals and one of over 110,000 Asian Americans in the military. Noting the nation's history of discrimination, he said, "If any minority had the right to make their legacy one of bitterness, anger and protest, it was the Japanese Americans... these Americans had every reason to hate, but instead they chose to make theirs a legacy of service, of honor, and of courage."
Commenting on our society's tendency to quickly label someone a hero, he said, "We hear the term applied to sports heroes, to rock stars, to TV and movie personalities... You don't build strength of character with steroids; you do it with grit, determination and unrelenting courage – qualities that the 442nd, the 100th, the MIS, the 522nd, the 232nd and the 1399th had in abundance, and the Nisei women that joined the Women's Army Corps."
GFBNEC Chairman George Nakano presented a Community Hero Award to Councilmember Jan Perry for supporting the organization during her years as Little Tokyo's representative on the City Council. It was exciting to hear Councilmember Perry pledge her continued involvement with our organization.
Our thanks to the many people who made the evening a great success, including Steve Morikawa, event chairperson and assistant vice president, corporate community relations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Lauren Kinkade-Wong and Kelsey Kwong who shared their musical voices, Grammy-award winning composer/musician Daniel Ho and Friends, Taiko Project, and Halau Keali'I O Nalani.
Thanks also to the world-class chefs who once again prepared a delicious dinner, which has become a hallmark of our event. This year it was an honor to have Roy Yamaguchi and Jackie Lau of Roy's Restaurants Worldwide, Akira Hirose of Maison Akira, and Andreas Nieto of The Westin Bonaventure. Thanks also to King's Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant for providing the delicious desserts.
A full list of Evening of Aloha sponsors, planning committee members, and volunteers groups will appear in the next issue of the Torch.
For more about the event, please visit the website of our media sponsor, the RafuShimpo, for a round-up story of our event: http://rafu.com/news/2012/10/admiral-general-thank-nisei-vets-at-gfb-gala/.