By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
In the midst of a grueling reelection fight to keep her Senate seat in Washington, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer took some time off from campaigning Saturday to make a special announcement in Little Tokyo.
Addressing a group of former members of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service at the Go For Broke Memorial, Boxer revealed that the bill she authored to grant a collective Congressional Gold Medal to the veterans was passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
“While we could never, ever repay the debt we owe you, we can and we must stand up and recognize your valor and your patriotism,” said Boxer, speaking before a dozen or so veterans and their family members. She praised the men for withstanding the suspicion that hung over them due to their heritage and choosing to join the fight for America.
“The brave Nisei I meet all the time in my work did not turn in anger against their country. No, they did not. You enlisted in the United States Army, many of you volunteering despite being subjected to hurtful slurs,” the senator said, also noting the service of former 442nd member and Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye. “You made a decision, like Sen. Inouye did, that America was worth fighting for and worth dying for.”
Boxer listed some of the countless decorations earned by the 100th/442 and MIS, which for its size and length service, is the most decorated combat unit of World War II. The regiment earned thousands of Purple Hearts, more than 500 Silver Stars, nine presidential unit citations and 21 Medals of Honor.
“We believe it is long past time that you are honored with another award, a Congressional Gold Medal,” Boxer insisted.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, who authored the House version of the bill, praised Boxer for coordinating the unopposed vote, saying she “Moved Earth and Heaven to get this passed in the Senate.” He added that the medal would not only recognize the service of the 100th/442nd and MIS, but also their commitment to teaching younger generations.
“We want every child, in every school in America, to know and understand the enormous sacrifice, the bravery, the courage, the commitment that you displayed,” Schiff said. “And this Congressional Gold Medal has already generated a lot of interest in your accomplishments.”
Schiff will reintroduce his version in the House next month, after it underwent some changes to match the Senate bill. Passage is expected with little or no opposition, with the only delays being brought by the crush of the congressional schedule in this tense election year.
Boxer is vying for a third term as California’s senator. Several recent polls have her trailing her challenger, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Retired Staff Sgt. Hiro Nishikubo, who served in the 442nd’s L Company, said the recognition, though 65 years after war’s end, is unspeakably gratifying.
“It’s an honor to get the medal,” Nishikubo said. “I keep thinking about all the guys who are not here, that passed on already, especially those guys that were killed in action. Those are the ones I really think about.”
Plans for a ceremony to award the medal have not been announced. However, several of the veterans in attendance Saturday–now well into their 80s or 90s—said their health would prevent them from attending any event in Washington.
Also on hand for the announcement were State Assemblymen Ted Lieu (D-El Segundo) and Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), who said passing the bill without dissent is a major senatorial accomplishment.
“That’s unthinkable for me, I don’t know how she did that,” Furutani marveled. “But I think it speaks to the kind of acceptance and education that the Go For Broke Foundation has been doing.”