Seventy years ago, a group of Japanese-American men stepped forward to volunteer to fight for their country despite facing discrimination at home.
On Saturday, members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team along with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Military Intelligence Service and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and their families gathered to remember the dedication of these brave men and recognize all those who served during World War II.
The service was on the lawn of the U.S. Army Museum at Fort DeRussy. The veterans in attendance were men in their 80s and 90s, who gathered to be recognized for their dedication and loyalty.
“We stand in the midst of true patriots who have bravely served,” said Wesley Deguchi, Sons and Daughters president.
A crane presentation representing peace was part of the service to remember all who served and sacrificed. And the veterans were reassured their story will not be forgotten.
“We can only hope to follow by example and ensure that what you fought for, your story, your legacy, lives on,” said Deguchi.
Don Noboru Seki was 19 years old when he joined the Army, against his parents wishes. They wanted to take him back to Japan.
“I said, ‘no’ and I made the greatest decision not to go,” said Seki. He told them, “I’m an American, a true American.”
Seki served in Company L and lost his left arm in the war. He had a pact with Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye, his fellow comrade who lost his right arm, to be there for the anniversary celebration to split a pair of gloves. The senator passed away in December.
But their story of courage and bravery, all while their country forced thousands of Japanese-Americans into internment camps, is not lost amongst Seki's grandson.
“That every hardship they endured, every bullet they took, was to prove that they were grateful to live in a democracy and a country of opportunity and that we, the future generation, would have that same privilege,” said Evan Matsuyama. “We will not forget.”
“In our eyes, you are all heroes,” said Deguchi.
Valor, integrity and duty are used to describe these soldiers, who remain humble.
“No, I’m not a hero,” said William Thompson, president of the 442nd Veterans Club. “We were just doing what we were supposed to do - fighting for our country.”
The 70th anniversary celebration continues Sunday with a luncheon and wraps up on Monday night with a special screening of the documentary "Honor with Valor" at the Honolulu Museum of Art.