WASHINGTON — “When I became a U.S. senator, I was determined to correct the injustice done to persons of Japanese ancestry, particularly those who served in the uniform of our country,” Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) told representatives of the Japanese American Veterans Association on Sept. 27 when they visited him at his office in the Hart Senate Office Building.
He is America’s first U.S. senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry, and currently the only Chinese American member of the Senate.
Already the recipient of JAVA’s highest award, the Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award, in 2007, Akaka was presented with JAVA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a framed citation that listed his major accomplishments for veterans, including Japanese Americans, an inscribed desk clock and a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal that was bestowed upon the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service last fall.
In presenting the award, JAVA President Gerald Yamada told Akaka, “You have championed issues that are important to veterans and you are a true friend and supporter of all veterans and their families. You have a long and personal relationship with JAVA and have been an honorary JAVA chair since its inception in 1993.”
The inscription on the desk clock and the medal case said, “For outstanding leadership and support on veterans’ matters.”
Akaka said he was deeply touched by this recognition and he philosophized on his support for veterans. He said he was especially pleased with the upgrades of 22 Distinguished Service Crosses to Medals of Honor for Asian Americans who served during World War II (including 20 Japanese Americans) and of the 514-page U.S. Army publication “Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During World War II.”
He also said the Army has committed to write another book on the Nisei’s unique contribution to the occupation of Japan, which he termed the military’s “exit strategy” of the Pacific War.
The senator commended JAVA, other Japanese American veterans organizations, and museums for publicizing the Japanese American World War II experience to the American people.
The citation of the JAVA award, read by Lt. Janelle Kuroda, a U.S. Navy legal officer, referred to Akaka’s distinguished service of 14 years in the House of Representatives and 22 years in the Senate, including his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, which produced “an unmatched record of new laws affecting veterans’ health care and compensation benefits.”
Kuroda enumerated other highlights of the senator’s distinguished legislative career, such as his creation of the Office of Minority Veterans in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), contribution to the establishment of Hawaii’s first DVA medical center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, support of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, and support for the creation of the MIS Historic Learning Center in San Francisco by the National Japanese American Historical Society. Various veterans’ organizations contributed to the preparation of the citation.
Col. Bruce Hollywood, U.S. Air Force (retired), JAVA’s executive director, presented Akaka with a digital recording of data of the 100th, 442nd and MIS specifically designed and prepared for the senator by Jim Yamashita, director of the Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance, and Susan Uyemura, chief executive officer of Japanese Living Legacy.
For more information on JAVA’s activities, visit www.javadc.org.