By STEVE FUKUSHIMA
SALT LAKE CITY — A total of 141 Congressional Gold Medal replicas were awarded to 36 surviving veterans and 105 families of deceased members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service at the Utah regional celebration of the Congressional Gold Medal on Feb. 18 at the Grand Ballroom of Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel.
A crowd of over 1,000 family members, friends, lawmakers and religious leaders saluted the members of the 100th/442nd/MIS, who were collectively presented a Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 2, 2011 in Washington, D.C. The CGM is the highest honor bestowed by Congress to a civilian.
A group of clergy led by Rev. Jerry Hirano of Salt Lake Buddhist Temple observed a moment of silence for the 70th anniversary of the Feb. 19, 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which authorized the internment of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry.
Also participating were Rev. Brad Kramer, Japanese Church of Christ; Bishop Richard Wilcox, Dai Ichi Ward, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; the Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Diocese of Utah; and the Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City.
The keynote speaker was Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Vincent Okamoto, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He called the awarding of the medal “a tribute to these great men, whose sacrifices stand as an example of all that is noble.”
Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) marveled at the veterans’ willingness “to fight for a country that had imprisoned their families.”
Other speakers included Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Judge Raymond Uno (retired), chair of the Utah CGM Committee.
Master and mistress of ceremonies were National JACL Executive Director S. Floyd Mori and Salt Lake County Councilmember Jani Iwamoto.
Among the 141 honorees were three women who served in the Women’s Army Corps. They were assigned to the MIS as document translators.
Bronze Star Medals were also presented to Misao Doi and the late Peter Mitsuo Oki.
Taira Fukushima, who was awarded a Bronze Star during the ceremonies in Washington, D.C., was also introduced.