Submitted by the Japanese American Veterans Association
Falls Church, Va.—General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, received the Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award from the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) in recognition of his 44 years of distinguished leadership in the United States Army and in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Award was presented on Jan. 16 at JAVA’s annual meeting in Falls Church, Va. The award is bestowed on persons who exemplify the spirit of courage, honor and patriotism demonstrated by the Nisei soldiers during World War II.
Over 150 JAVA members, families and friends, including veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, about a dozen flagranked officers, and veterans who served in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars expressed their enthusiastic approbation.
The Citation, read by Lieutenant Colonel Martin Herbert, USA (Ret.) a veteran of Desert Storm, stated:
“General Shinseki’s vision in Army Transformation launched an agile, combat ready force that could deploy, fight, and win anywhere in the world, as confirmed in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, he is “transforming the VA into a more people-centric, result-oriented, forward looking organization ready to respond to the needs of veterans by providing veterans with benefits and health care they have earned.”
President Nakamoto said Asian Americans, including Japanese Americans, are proud of Secretary Shinseki’s accomplishments: the first Asian American to be appointed as Chief of Staff of the US Army and the third Asian American to be appointed to a cabinet rank position. Nakamoto said Shinseki is “our ultimate role model.”
In his remarks, Secretary Shinseki thanked JAVA President Bob Nakamoto for the luncheon arrangement and praised former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who was unable to attend due to his late return from overseas travel, for his “legendary service to his country and inspiration to us.”
He thanked Connie Ishio, wife of the late JAVA Founder-President Colonel Phil Ishio, USA (Ret.), for the yellow roses for his wife and recognized the veterans and active duty personnel for their service to country. Shinseki said he became Chief of Staff of the US Army only 50 years after the Nisei in World War II proved their loyalty through their sacrifices on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. He said with pride, “this can happen only in America” and that, because of their sacrifices, he has “lived a life without suspicion.”
Secretary Shinseki said he welcomed President Barack Obama’s request for him to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs because “the position afforded an opportunity to give back something to the veterans who have served their country so nobly.”
He outlined his major priorities as (1) reducing the backlog of claims, (2) improving health care of veterans of various wars each with its unique problems, (3) homelessness, (4) education, and (5) jobs for veterans. He expressed an urgent need to “get to a veteran before he goes into a downward spiral of depression.” He also said there are 131,000 homeless veterans—no American veteran “should be living on the street.” He described the importance of education as a potential resource for the building of the national economy and government to perpetuate the great nation.
Following the playing of the US Armed Forces Medley and concluding remarks, Secretary Shinseki stood near the exit where he exchanged greetings with each participant for over an hour. He did not leave until the last participant had left.