freja999 (freja999) wrote,

Who's YOUR Hero?

It's shameful for me to realize that I didn't know about the internment camps of WWII until less than a decade ago. Moreover, I didn't know about the Nisei soldiers until just several years ago. The Nisei Soldiers, for those who don't know yet, are American Citizens of the 442nd RCT and MIS who were of Japanese or sometimes simply Asian decent, largely recruited from these internment camps. They were all volunteer American citizens, (Nisei means second generation)  labeled "enemy aliens," simply because they were Asian or of Japanese Heritage. With their friends and family still interned, they volunteered as a way to show their patriotism and loyalty to the United States. I feel it is because they had chosen this route to prove their worth and patriotism that racism against Asians today is largely marginalized. The 442nd RCT are the most decorated unit for its size in US history. The number of casualty incidences exceed the number of actual individuals who were in the 442nd, with around 9,400 Purple Hearts, 7 Unit Citations and 21 Medal of Honor Recipients.  

442nd RCT

For Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May, I thought it would be a great idea to bring a few Nisei Soldiers to speak, so our diversity group, which I coordinate events for, contacted the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) and two representatives came and spoke at my agency.  Terry Shima of the 442nd RCT and Grant Ichikawa of the MIS spoke brilliantly and without a trace of bitterness if sometimes with irony.

Talking with Grant extensively at lunch afterward, he invited me to the Memorial Weekend Ceremony at the Arlington Cemetary Collumbarium where I met Medal of Honor Recipient George Sakato .  

After the ceremony, SB and I helped Grant and his wife Millie ( a heroine in her own experiences )(While living in Jakarta where Grant was stationed, there was a rebellion against the government in power and mass chaos ensued.  Rebels tried to climb the flagpole of her home to tear down the American Flag.  She ran out and demanded that they get down and leave the flag alone, that their beef was with their government and not the US unless they wanted the US to have a beef with them.  In the face of this immense woman (she's 4'10" if stretched) they left the Flag flying).lay wreaths at gravesites of friends and battle buddies of  JAVA.

Later they had asked us to the JAVA Quarterly Luncheon as guests.  I was able to attend with about 80 others at a very nonpretentious gathering of some extremely interesting individuals of all walks of life.  Not all members are Japanese, Asians or even Vets.  It was then, amongst these warm people, that I realized that Antonio Taguba was in attendence.  Major General Taguba.  Of the Taguba Report !   THAT Taguba! 


 A man whose work I have quoted time and time again.  The man who was ordered to find the truth of the Abu Ghraib scandal and was eventually forced into early retirement for reporting the truth!  I'm glad that more flag officers have come forward after they've retired in criticism of policies, abuses and systemic issues, but it takes a true patriot, a true hero, to remember that a soldiers loyalties should lie first to his country before his commanders and those who will dictate his career.  More recently, he made an incredible declaration against this current administration. 

If you don't see how the internment of innocent civilians (read the damn report if you disagree) within their own country is wrong even after the lessons of the Nisei and Ronald Reagan's public apology on behalf of a remorseful and grateful nation with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 , if you don't know what it means to me to have met a man whose work brought to light the unbelieveable conditions that people, whom I care very much about, had to work and live under and whose lives have been irrevocably scarred by what they've endured alongside those detainees, if you don't understand how grateful I am every day that racial slanders against me are few and truly rare because of the Nisei...if you don't know why that's a big deal to me, you don't know me very well and I would wonder, who is your hero?
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