The Japanese American Veterans’ Joint Memorial Service was held May 25 at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo, sponsored by the Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance, Japanese American Korean War Veterans, and Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee.
The court’s monuments contain the names of all Japanese Americans who died in service during America’s wars, from the Spanish American War (1898) to the present. Another name has just been added — Air Force Capt. Reid Nishizuka, 30, who was one of four airmen killed when an MC-12 aircraft crashed in Afghanistan on April 27. Members of Nishizuka’s family were on hand to pay their respects.
Nishizuka has also been honored by the governors of Hawaii, where he grew up, and California, where he was stationed (427th Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale Air Force Base).
The keynote speaker was Robert Fumio Leong, who served as a captain with the 5th Special Forces Group and Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) from 1968 to 1970. He is a former chair of the California Veterans Board.
Opening remarks were made by program chair Ken Hayashi of the Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, Helen Ota, public information officer of the Japanese American National Museum, and Minoru Tonai, JAKWV president. Colors were posted and retired by Redondo Union High School’s Marine Corps Jr. ROTC, which also fired the traditional rifle volleys. A bugler from Koyasan Temple Boy Scout Troop 379 played “Assembly” and “Taps.”
The invocation was given by Rev. Mark Nakagawa of Centenary United Methodist Church, and the benediction by Bishop Daigaku Rumme of Zenshuji Buddhist Temple. Lt. Col. Russell Nakaishi, past president of the Nisei Veterans Coordinating Council, led the Pledge of Allegiance and Erika Olsen, 2011 Nisei Week Queen, sang the national anthem and “God Bless America.”
Floral tributes were given by the following organizational representatives:
Gold Star Mothers — Yoko Nakamura
Honor Roll — Ron Yamada, Memorial Court Preservation Committee
Spouses and Families of Deceased Veterans — Lynnie Tabata
Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance — Mike Tsuji, architect
Japanese American Korean War Veterans — Wally Takata, vice president
Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee — Steve Nakauchi
USS Maine, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan — Sam Shimoguchi, past president, JAKWV
Nisei Veterans Coordinating Council — Lt. Col. Russell Nakaishi, past president
VFW 4th District Gardena Post 1961 — Steve Moriyama, commander
VFW Kazuo Masuda Post 3670 — Ben Shimazu, past commander
VFW San Fernando Valley Post 4140 — Frank Tanaka, commander
American Legion Sadao Munemori Post 321 — George Tokeshi, past commander
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 100 — Akio Sawada, president
100th/442nd Veterans Association — Laura Shigemitsu, president
Military Intelligence Service Association of Southern California — Cathy Tanaka, board secretary
Go For Broke National Education Center — Cathy Tanaka, board member
Consulate General of Japan — Deputy Consul General Masahiro Suga
City of Los Angeles — Terry Hara, LAPD deputy chief
Adapt a Vietnam War KIA Program — Dianne Belli
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center — Sandra Sakamoto, chairperson
Nisei Week Foundation — Steve Inouye, president
Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo