By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
RAFU STAFF WRITER
President Obama Tuesday signed the bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, to honor the predominantly Nisei units for their service during World War II.
The ceremony was the culmination for S.1055, the bill authored and introduced jointly by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena.)
“These brave Japanese Americans enlisted and fought to protect our Nation despite segregated training conditions, the relocation of families and friends to internment camps, and repeated questions about their combat abilities,” Rep. Schiff said. “I can’t imagine a group more deserving of this accolade, and I applaud this recognition of their service and patriotism.”
Floyd Mori. the executive director of the Japanese American Citizens’ League, was among the small group who joined Obama for the intimate signing.
“I became very emotional, because there were only 12 or so of us there, with the President in the Oval Office,” Mori said. “He greeted each one of us and made some very nice comments, about things like being from Hawaii and being close to some of the families of some of the veterans. He also said that we stand today on the shoulders of those soldiers who served us.”
Mori explained that the visitors surrounded the presidential desk and that Obama–as is customary–used several pens to put his name to the document.
As most of the surviving veterans who were part of what became known as the “Go For Broke” brigades are now approaching or into their 90s, only a handful were able to make the journey to Washington to witness the signing. Among those were Jimmy Kanaya, Terry Shima and Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye of the 442nd, 100th veteran and Los Angeles resident Sam Fujikawa and Grant Ichikawa of the MIS.
Also present was Peter Rouse, who Obama named his Chief of Staff last Friday, after the resignation of Rahm Emanuel. Rouse’s Issei grandparents moved to Los Angeles from Alaska just prior to World War II, and were sent to the internment camp at Poston, Ariz. during the war. Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs secretary, Reps. Schiff, Charles Djou (R-Hawaii), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Mike Honda (D-San Jose), and Christine Sato-Yamazaki, chair of the National Veterans Network, also attended the signing ceremony.
Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) commented before the signing, “While some Japanese Americans were being wrongly interned due only to their ethnicity, these brave men stepped forward to defend our nation. Their bravery helped to not only win the war, it paved the way towards a more tolerant and just nation. It will be a truly historic moment when President Barack Obama signs this honor for the Nisei veterans into law.”
The Go For Broke regiments became the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States military. Their shared medal will reportedly be put on display at the Cato Institute in Washington.
The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to civilians who have served the security and national interests of the nation. The 442nd/100th and MIS join the ranks of past recipients such as Rosa Parks, the Navajo code talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Wright Brothers.