The day after a surprise rainstorm hit the Los Angeles area, a dozen high school volunteers braved the weather and convened at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court to wash, scrub and polish the court, steps and black granite walls.
The Memorial Court honors all Japanese Americans who gave their lives in America’s wars to preserve our freedom and way of life. The students’ mission was to bring the Memorial Court to pristine condition to prepare for Memorial Day weekend services and visitors. Under the direction of Javier Ixta and Arick Nakamoto, their mission was accomplished.
Surrounded by the just-polished walls of the Memorial Court, the young volunteers listened as 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran Jim Yamashita spoke of the battles, challenges and courage of the Nisei soldiers. He pointed to names etched in the World War II Memorial and told them stories about his friends who did not return home with him. He noted that many of the soldiers killed were barely older than the participating students.
Pizza lunch followed inside the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, provided by Peggy Mizumoto, daughter of a 442nd veteran. During lunch, Korean War veterans Thomi Yamamoto and Tohoru Isobe spoke of the intense battles, the extreme cold and even some spy stories.
Vietnam veterans David Miyoshi and Judge Vincent Okamoto spoke about looking like the enemy and the challenges of the draftee army. Ron Yamada, son of a 442nd veteran, spoke of the project he created to bring flowers to the gravesites of Nisei soldiers buried in Europe every Memorial Day.
Also participating were veterans George Iseri, Sam Shimoguchi, Chris Segawa and Ken Hayashi, along with Mitzi Okamoto, Ray and Susan Uyemura and photographer Cory Hayashi.
The volunteers represented Venice Jr. YBA, Southern District Jr. YBA, Tigers Youth Club and Js & Vs of North Torrance High. The 2015 Spit & Polishers, including several repeat volunteers, were: Blake Wakasa, Kyle Nagao, Toni Tokirio, Morgan Gee, Blake Yokoyama, Corie Yaguchi, Alyssa Koba, Marley Uyemura, Deanne Aiua, Kaitlyn Iwaki, Lilo Ichiba and Karlee Itomura.
Among several gifts and tokens of appreciation, the volunteers were presented their very own “Spit & Polish” towel, designed and donated by Susan and Ray Uyemura of Japanese American Living Legacy. Also thanked were all the parents who drove the volunteers to the Memorial Court and provided moral support as their sons and daughters did all the hard work.