Congressional Gold Medal Celebration, Washington, DC October 31st – November 3rd 2011
Board Member’s Message
by by Setsy Sadamoto Larouche
On May 13, 2009, Congressman Adam Schiff from California introduced the Congressional Gold Medal Bill HR 347 to award the CGM to the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT). Senator Barbara Boxer also from California introduced SB 1055 in the Senate. The National Veterans Network (NVN) began a grassroots to lobby support for the passage of the bill and an amendment was introduced to include the Military Intelligence Service. JACL was instrumental in lobbying for support for the passage of this important bill. It was finally passed on September 23, 2010 and President Obama signed into law on October 5, 2010. The Oregon Nikkei Endowment and the Oregon Nisei Veterans were part of the 25 sponsoring organizations under the leadership of Christine Sato-Yamazaki who organized the Washington, DC celebration.
We had seven veterans from Oregon attending the festivities and with widows and next of kin and other family members, we had over 90 members from Oregon in all. The Portland area veterans were Ace Hiromura, Art Iwasaki, Richard Iwata, Lorry Nakatsu and Kazumi Oda. Dange Atagi from Nysaa and Yasu Teramura from Ontario rounded out the veteran contingent.
Eleven Royal Rosarians came to the airport on October 31st at 5 a.m. to give the veterans a very nice send off. They all received a certificate from the Rosarians and a copy of the Proclamation signed by Mayor Sam Adams that declared October 31, 2011 as Nisei Veterans Day. Pendleton generously donated a lovely blanket named "Grateful Nation" to each of the 7 veterans. Five of the veterans went on the Honor Flights which was donated by Southwest Air Lines. When they landed at Dulles Airport, they were greeted by the Honor Flight volunteers and the USO. Then they were shuttled to the Washington Hilton Hotel, home base for many of the activities.
Right: Lynn Longfellow and Setsy Larouche stand in front of the Grateful Nation Blanket donated to each veteran by Pendleton.
On November 1, 2011, there were 40 bronze stars awarded to veterans of 100th and 442nd for their service during WWII. A special presentation was made by the Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno. The US Army Band played as the children from the Spark Matsunaga Elementary School sang the National Anthem and America the Beautiful. Two Oregonians received their bronze star—Art Iwasaki and Kazumi Oda. In the afternoon, buses took our veterans to the WWII Memorial for the wreath presentation.
Left: Senator Wyden sponsors a reception for the Oregon Delegation prior to the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony.
On Wednesday, November 2nd, we were bused in the morning to the Capitol for the CGM Ceremony. Senator Wyden was kind and invited the Oregon delegation for a reception just prior to the ceremony. We thank him and his staff for the wonderful gesture. Over 1,200 were present to witness the presentation of CGM by the Speaker of the House, the Honorable John Boehner. The speakers were: The Honorable Adam Schiff, The Honorable Ralph Hall, The Honorable Barbara Boxer, The Honorable John McCain, The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, The Honorable Mitch McConnell, The Honorable Harry Reid, and The Honorable John Boehner. The Honorable Daniel Inouye, President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, who received a standing ovation, said these words: "It has been a long journey but a glorious one. We wish to Board Members Message Continued thank all of you, all Americans, for this recognition…I’m certain that I speak for all assembled here, but more importantly I’m sure that those who are resting in cemeteries are pleased with this day."
November 2nd afternoon/evening: Prior to the Gala Dinner, the CGM award replica presentation was conducted in the Columbia Hall at the Hilton Hotel. Senator Inouye was presented the first replica by Lt General (Retired) Joseph Peterson and all eligible veterans and honorees received their medals at the end of the ceremony. All replica medals were donated by Donna Fujimoto Cole, from Cole Chemical of Houston, Texas.
The Gala Dinner was attended by over 2,400 people. The keynote speaker was The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs who was introduced by Ann Curry of the Today Show. President Obama was in France so a video was shown of him congratulating our veterans and their families. "Gentlemen, you believed in America even when American didn’t always believe in you. Many of you have continued to serve our nation, including my good friend Senator Daniel Inouye. You are patriots pure and simple, and for that we will always owe you a profound debt of gratitude." Mr. Norman Mineta introduced Sachi Koto who was the emcee. The invocation was done by our JACL Executive Director, Floyd Mori.
November 3rd: On the final day a low-key ceremony honoring the soldiers who never came home was held at the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During WWII, which includes a wall inscribed with the names of 814 Japanese American soldiers killed in action while serving in Europe with the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team or in the Pacific with the Military Intelligence Service. The memorial also has ten panels with each name of the camp inscribed and when they were built, soil from each camp was buried under them. Many dignitaries were in attendance to include General Shinseki, Secretary Norman Mineta, and LTG Peterson. The centerpiece of the memorial is the 14 ft sculpture of two Japanese cranes entangled in barbed wire.
It was a glorious time in Washington, DC. To honor our veterans who could not travel the distance, we will have a local CGM celebration with a luncheon. Please save the date, Sunday, February 26, 2012 as we honor all those who went to Washington, DC as well as those who could not attend. The committee is hard at work planning/organizing our local celebration.