By Ken Hayashi and Ron Yamada
To help prepare the Japanese American War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo for the Memorial Weekend service, high school volunteers washed, scrubbed and polished the grounds and granite walls of the Memorial Court on Saturday under the direction of Walter Morita and maintenance specialists of the JACCC.
Volunteers Lisa Kawakami, Brandon Yee, Kaitlyn Akiyama, Nicole Hamasaki, Lauren Sullivan, Kathy Hoang, Joseph Roh, Justin Kim, Hailey Huff, Ryan Kawahara, Kyle Kotani and Nick Ozawa from Torrance and Orange County were welcomed by Judge Vincent Okamoto, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran.
When the work was done and the Memorial Court was shining, and veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam served the young volunteers a lunch prepared by Chef Andrew Tsuji. During lunch, the veterans shared personal stories of those wars and the special meaning the Memorial Court has for each of them. The common theme was: “We do not honor war. We honor those that did not return home with us, those heroes who gave their lives so that we could live in freedom.”
They seemed to understand that this was like having a living history session, especially when speaking to World War II veterans Jim Yamashita and Mike Tsuji. Korean War veterans Min Tonai, Roy Shiraga and Bob Wada shared and signed their stories in the book “Americans of Japanese Ancestry in the Korean War,” a copy of which was given to each volunteer. Vietnam veterans David Miyoshi and Dennis Maruki spoke of their wartime experience and even shared a copy of a draft notice, which was a life-changing piece of correspondence in the years before 1973.
Speaking of the first Spit & Polish Day, Yamashita said, “It is comforting that the new generations stand ready to assume our role of honoring those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We must never forget them.”
The service will be held May 28 at 10 a.m.
Memorial Day services will take place this weekend to honor Japanese Americans who gave their lives in America’s wars from World War II to the present time. In addition, veterans who returned from America’s wars and have since passed away are also recognized.
• LITTLE TOKYO: A Memorial Day service for all Japanese Americans who gave their lives in our nation’s wars, will be held, adjacent to the Japanese American National War Memorial Court (Memorial Court) at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) at 10 a.m. Keynote speaker is is Scott Takahashi, a Vietnam Veteran whose father was a member of the 100th Battalion in World War II. For information, call Thomi Yamamoto (213) 387-9033, Victor Muraoka (818) 368-4113 or Ken Hayashi (323) 585-0802.
• EVERGREEN CEMETERY: Letters to Japanese American soldiers will be the centerpiece of the 61st annual Memorial Day service for the Nikkei Veterans of the Southland of All Wars on Monday, May 30 from 11 a.m. at Evergreen Cemetery. The letters will be read by Jack Kennedy, Darryl Kunitomi, David Ono, Helen Ota, John Wakamatsu, and Ron Yamada as a tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of the Nikkei who served in the military.
For more information, contact Russell Nakaishi at (714) 895-2801 or [email protected]
•WESTMINSTER: The Kazuo Masuda Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 3670 announced plans for its annual Memorial Day service at the Westminster Memorial Park in Westminster on Monday, May 30, at 3 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Ron Yamada, son of the late Eiro Yamada of L Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The invocation and benediction will be provided by Rev. Marvin Harada of Orange County Buddhist Church.