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February 2017


Making History Come Alive: A Filmmaker Gets to Know GFBNEC Veterans

Stanley Hayami
A bright young boy with a promising future ends up being put in camp and then killed in a war fighting for a country that dramatically and tragically changed his life—first by putting him behind barbed wire and then by drafting him to serve. It is a story made for the screen since the young man, Stanley Hayami, was also a gifted artist and talented writer.

In 2011, when I walked through the doors of GFBNEC's offices to seek support for my film about Stanley Hayami, "A Flicker in Eternity," I soon discovered that his story was not an isolated one. It could be told by scores of others who shared this young man's trials and tribulations at a time when their country turned against them and their families because they looked like the enemy.

We had just put the finishing touches on the film when we heard the exciting news: the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, and Military Intelligence Service had just been awarded the nation's highest honor—the Congressional Gold Medal. Our timing could not have been better. I reached out to GFBNEC to help us tell Stanley's story to all those with little or no knowledge of these amazing soldiers.

As I talked to veterans who shared his journey—many who have since sadly passed on—I began to understand that Stanley was like a lot of young men caught in this impossibly difficult situation. First of all, he was only 18 when he had to make this serious life choice. Driven by duty, he also had peer pressure and a desire to follow what felt like the right thing to do. His youth probably also helped him face the ensuing dangers of war with a certain innocent stalwartness. He ended many a letter home with "don't worry about me," as if he really meant it—even though we will never fully know how he really felt.

It was not until I started talking to the quiet Nisei heroes at GFBNEC that I realized the breadth of these stories of courage. Each and every soldier's story had something to teach me about that life-changing time in our history that shaped our community forever.

When the Nisei veterans were handed the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C. on November 2, 2011, I celebrated with a greater understanding of the sacrifices made not only by Stanley Hayami, but also by the many men and their families who gave so much of themselves in service to our country. Thanks to GFBNEC, I got to hear the stories up close and shake the hands of those living heroes who changed my life and the course of history.

--Sharon Yamato

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