By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
GARDENA — First Sgt. Steve Mick surveyed the gathering of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans’ annual New Year’s celebration. On Memorial Day, Sgt. Mick brings young cadets from the Junior ROTC program at Redondo Union High to present colors at the JACCC in Little Tokyo.
“I see a bunch of old men,” Sgt. Mick said. “But they weren’t always old. They were the ones that fought the battles. They were young and full of strength. Because of their valor, today, we stand as fellow warriors.”
JAKWV gathered to install new officers for 2019 and to reflect on their years of service to the Japanese American community. The organization held its first meeting on Jan. 5, 1996 with 28 veterans of the “forgotten war.”
“At that first meeting, we filled every officer and committee position. I knew then that this would succeed,” founding president Bob Wada said.
JAKWV raised more than $200,000 to honor Japanese Americans killed in action with a memorial at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo. In 2001, JAKWV dedicated a memorial to Nikkei soldiers at Imjin-Gak Memorial Park in South Korea.
The veterans also march in the Nisei Week Parade every summer and host a hospitality suite in the JACCC.
South Korean Consul General Wan-Joon Kim attended the luncheon and expressed gratitude to the veterans.
“After 66 years, the Republic of Korea is a thriving democracy with a dynamic economy,” Kim said. “Without your bravery and sacrifice I don’t think it would have been possible.”
Deputy Consul General Hiroki Matsuo also offered his thanks, saying that the veterans helped to establish peace in Asia.
Min Tonai served as master of ceremonies. Ken Hayashi, a Vietnam War veteran, installed officers for 2019.
President Sam Shimoguchi said that, while the members are getting older, JAKWV was going to continue for at least the next couple of years.
“Everyone thinks we’re ending. We are not!” Shimoguchi said. “We’re downsizing, but we’ll be carrying on the official things we’ve been doing.”
Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo