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Ceremony at Punchbowl honors Japanese soldiers

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Sep 29 2013 06:31:35 PM HST

A heavily-visited national venue was the site today of a solemn ceremony Sunday, one that honored thousands of Japanese American soldiers and veterans from Hawaii.

HONOLULU -

A heavily-visited national venue was the site today of a solemn ceremony honoring thousands of Japanese American soldiers and veterans from Hawaii.

70 years on this day, Japanese American soldier Shigeo Joe Takata from Hawaii blazed a historic and deadly trail of heroism, which has been followed by hundreds of others.  

"These brave men were determined to prove their loyalty, and fight for their country's freedoms even when their own freedom was uncertain," said Retired Brigadier General James Hirai.

Takata died attacking a German position in Italy back in 1943.

His sacrifice and the contributions of all fallen World War II Americans of Japanese Ancestry soldiers were highlighted at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

While this is an event to honor those who died, it also aims to strengthen the bonds of friendship among those who survived, or who lost a family member.

"In doing this and working together, we have established a relationship that our fathers had," said Byrnes Yamashita of the AJA Veterans Council."So its been a great experience to get to know these folks."

On this day of recognizing the accomplishments of Japanese American soldiers, there was also a final song, Danny Boy, to recognize the late Senator Daniel Inouye.

And a fond farewell to a long-time servant of the national memorial site.

For decades the face and voice of Punchbowl has been that of retired Marine Colonel Gene Castagnetti, the superintendent of the cemetery.

He will officially retire Monday after 24 years.

While he was humbled by the feeling of gratitude given to him by the veterans at Sunday's ceremony, he contends that it was their sacrifice that has made the memorial at Punchbowl a special place.

"This has put the veteran in the limelight," said Castagnetti. "They didn't come to see me, they came to make a pilgrimage to the American veteran. Who's sacrifice made a huge impact on the Pacific Rim."

Along with continuing to help Hawaii's veterans, Castagnetti says he has another important mission ahead, spending time with his four great-grandchildren who all live on the mainland.

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