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Congressional Gold Medal Recipients To Be Honored Locally

By Jodi Leong
Published On: Dec 13 2011 11:00:02 PM HST
Updated On: Dec 15 2011 07:25:07 AM HST
HONOLULU -

Local Nisei soldiers who received the coveted Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C. last month, will be honored during several celebrations in Honolulu this weekend.

There are 450 Congressional Gold Medal recipients from Hawaii, but only 60 of them were able to travel to Washington D.C. for the official presentation ceremony on Nov. 2.

Tadashi Fukumoto, 87, was among them.

"I got off the plane and people just waving the flags you know. And I said, 'My goodness.' They welcome us with love. They said, thank you. Thank you,?" Fukumoto said.

Fukumoto was only 19 when he joined the Military Intelligence Service.

His first duty was questioning a prisoner of war shortly after the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.

"He was crying. I told him, 'I'm Nisei from Hawaii. So you got to trust me, you know.? That prisoner trusted me and he listened to me and he gave all the information about his troops and all that," Fukumoto said.

Kenneth Higa was on the front line and was nearly killed while on duty in a machine gun hole.

"The shrapnel hit me all on the back up here. And I was buried underneath. And the other people had to run out because they already thought I was dead," Higa said.

U.S. Congress bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service for their valiant and dedicated service during World War Two.

Both Higa, Fukumoto and 92-year-old Mitsuo Hamasu will never forget attending the medal presentation ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 2nd.

But this weekend, they will celebrate the honor at home with a parade, banquet and ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

They are eager to join other local Congressional Gold Medal recipients who were not able to make the long trip to receive the nation's highest civilian honor.

"This bond is really tight. The friendship that we formed on the front line, we formed that bond of brotherhood, yeah? It's so important, especially on the front line," Higa said.

"We look forward to meeting our old buddies and think about and reminisce about the old times,? said Hamasu.

The weekend?s event honoring the Nisei soldiers begins on Saturday with a parade through Waikiki at 10 a.m.

The parade will be followed by a banquet at the Hawaii Convention Center, where soldiers will be presented with replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Finally, there will be a memorial service at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Sunday at 9 a.m.

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