Putting rivalries aside, the Bruins and Trojans joined forces on Nov. 2 to clean and polish the Japanese American National War Memorial Court for the Veterans Day weekend.
After a morning of hard work, the volunteers were treated to a pizza lunch and had an opportunity to talk with veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.
The students learned that the Memorial Court is the only place in the country that honors the patriotism and sacrifice of over 1,200 Japanese Americans who gave their lives in America’s wars since 1898. Jim Yamashita, who served in the 442nd RCT I Company, pointed out the names of several soldiers he served with in the now famous battles of World War II. He reminded the students that the soldiers killed were not old and gray but young like them, in their twenties and even in their teens.
Air Force Maj. Justine Iacono told them about her friend, Capt. Reid Nishizuka, the last name to be added to the Memorial Court, who gave his life in Afghanistan in April of this year. They were classmates at Notre Dame and served together in Kuwait just a few years before. She tearfully spoke of his skill as a pilot and his dedication to duty and country. Min Tonai spoke of the Korean War and David Miyoshi the Vietnam War.
Others in attendance were Yamashita’s wife Marian and Vietnam veterans Dennis Maruki, Art Ishii, Wayne Kitagawa and his wife Miwako, Vince Okamoto and his wife Mitzi, and Ken Hayashi. All the veterans expressed their appreciation to the following volunteers:
From USC Nikkei Association: Kevin Oyama, April Nishinaka and Tiffany Hashimoto.
From UCLA NSU: Erina Tashiro, Tricia Choy, Tatiana Lu, Nanase Mori, Coco Tando, Ryutaro Enoki, Nick Sugo, Daiki Hara, Max Kaito, Jonathan Lee and Ayako Matsuda. Special thanks went to UCLA NSU volunteer coordinator Lisa Kawakami. While a student at North High, Kawakami organized the volunteers for the first Spit & Polish, and now as a UCLA sophomore, she continues her community service, leadership and dedication.
The veterans and their supporters also thank Javier Ixta and Aric Nakamoto of the JACCC, who have provided their expertise to the volunteers since the first Spit & Polish, and to volunteer photographer Cory Hayashi.