By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
Staring up at the towering replica of the Korean War Veterans Memorial that is currently being constructed atop a Rose Parade float, Minoru Tonai said he was as awestruck as when he first say the memorial in Washington, D.C.
“When I saw it in Washington for the first time, it really was emotional for me, because it really depicted what it was like when we were on patrol,” said Tonai.
Now 83, Tonai served nearly a year as a medical sergeant with the 224th Regimental Combat Team in the Kumsong region during the conflict.
The float, sponsored by the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, will stand some 21 feet high and 55 feet long when it is completed. Six veterans of the Korean War, including Tonai and Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura from New Mexico, will ride the float as it makes its way down the five-mile-plus route in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
Tonai even took some time to held decorate the float at the Rosemont Pavilion across from the Rose Bowl. He said it was lovely that the float will be adorned with trees and flowers, because much of the foliage where he was stationed had all been destroyed by fighting or burned for firewood.
One volunteer decorator, Mary Ok Ran Han, was born in Seoul during the hostilities in 1952. The mother of an Iraq War veteran now stationed in Hiroshima, she said she feels a special appreciation for the veterans who are honored for their service in Korea.
“Maybe it’s because I’m a mother of a veteran, or because I am Korean, but I really feel for the people who went there and fought and suffered for us.”