In a show of bipartisan support for a commemorative postage stamp proposal honoring the Japanese American World War II soldiers, Rep. Paul Cook of Apple Valley sent his own letter of support to the postmaster general on May 17.
Cook, a retired Marine colonel, is a Republican who represents California’s 8th Congressional District, which is the large swath in the southeastern part of the state that includes Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino counties.
“As a representative from California, I have been able to personally visit the Manzanar incarceration site located in my district,” Cook explained in his letter. “The site helps visitors relive an incredible time in American history and tells the story of this resilient and brave community of Japanese Americans. For those who haven’t learned this history, a commemorative stamp could stimulate their curiosity and engagement.”
Prior to Cook’s letter, no other Republican had stepped forward to support the stamp this year. In past years, Republican supporters have included Reps. Ed Royce of Rowland Heights and Ken Calvert of Corona.
“As we look back at how these Japanese Americans were treated, for no reason other than their ethnicity, it is important that we find a way to honor their courage, loyalty, and undying patriotism to the United States,” Cook wrote. “This stamp will serve as a tribute to their sacrifice, as well as a necessary reminder that civil liberties belong to us all.”
The Stamp Our Story Campaign is leading the charge to advocate for this stamp subject.
“We sincerely appreciate these members of Congress standing up for the veterans and this stamp. This is a cause that should unite both parties,” said Wayne Osako, co-chair of the campaign. “If your congressmember has not yet shown support, we encourage you to ask them to send their own letter like Col. Cook’s.”
On May 2, 34 members of Congress co-signed a letter of support from Reps. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) and Judy Chu (D-Pasadena).
The co-signers are: Reps. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Mark Takano (D-Riverside), Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-Hayward), Julia Brownley (D-Thousand Oaks), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Alan Lowenthal D-Long Beach), Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte), Sam Farr (D-Salinas), Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Scott Peters (D-San Diego), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), and Susan Davis (D-San Diego).
Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined the House members in signing.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) sent his own correspondence to the postmaster general on May 17. “I am sending you this letter to add my name to the list of supporters of this stamp subject,” he explained. “We urge you to take decisive action to support this subject by 2017. Very few historical Asian American Pacific Islander stamp subjects have ever been issued. This inspirational stamp would be a big step in the right direction.”
Next year marks 75 years since the start of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The campaign supporters hope that the Postal Service issues the stamp in 2017 to help commemorate this important year. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February of 1942, leading to over 120,000 Japanese Americans from West Coast states being forcibly removed from their homes and sent to incarceration centers. Two-thirds of those in the camps were American citizens.
Despite this injustice, over 33,000 Nisei enlisted in the U.S. Army to show their loyalty. Many volunteered directly from these camps, leaving family members still behind barbed wire. Over 800 Nisei servicemen died during the war.
For more information on the campaign and to read the letters from Congress in their entirety, go to www.StampOurStory.org.