Monday, February 07, 2011
My dad was the first generation born in the US. His parents immigrated from Japan and he was born in 1919 in Oregon. He's the oldest of seven. His family farmed and lived on the west coast. His family and relatives worked on building the railroad. Fast forward to the time of World War II, when in America, Japanese Americans were given the choice to either (a) enlist as American soldiers or (b) go to concentration camps. While most of his family went to camps, my dad and several of his friends and my relatives enlisted. At the time, there were essentially three "units" of Japanese Americans. The 100th Infantry Battalion was the first unit in US history to be comprised of 100% Japanese Americans. They were drafted from Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and heriocally guarded Hawaiian beaches from land attack. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed from volunteers after a cry from the war department to form additional forces. Over twelve thousand Japanese Americans served in the 442nd. Finally, during WWII, six thousand Japanese Americans served in the MIS, Military Intelligence Service, performing secret language related work behind Japanese lines.
The MIS is where my dad served the bulk of his time.
In the story of dad's life, there are some significant gaps in time. This is what helps explain a 28 year gap in age between my mom and my dad. He served in the military. Served again. Then served again. Concurrently, his parents and family were released from concentration camps and claimed a tiny piece of land in southern Colorado where they farmed potatoes. Upon his return from wars and lands unseen, he took up residence with his family on the farm. In that small town, he met my mom, who was a college student. Are you scratching your head? Of all the half-breed Asian kids I know, I'm the ONLY one who has the Asian dad and the Caucasian mom. It's usually the tiny petite Asian lady who falls for the hunky corn-fed white man. But my family is bass-ackward in that respect. It's just one of the many ways . . .
It's been years and years and years. Most of the men my Pop served with have passed on. Still, many remain, and this fall, they will all be recognized by receiving a Congressional Gold Medal. In all honesty, I had to do some research on what EXACTLY that meant . . so here it is:
"This medal is an award bestowed by Congress and is the highest civilian award in the United States. The decoration is awarded to an individual or unit who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Each medal honors a particular individual, institution, or event. Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients. First recipient of the medal was George Washington in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. Of the 145 recipients, also included are the Tuskegee Airmen, Navaho Codetalkers, President Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison, Wright Brothers and Mother Teresa."
It's been YEARS in the making. In May of 2009, Congressman Adam Schiff & Senator Barbara Boxer simultaneously introduced bills into the house and sentate to honor the 442nd and 100th. In July of 2010, the language was amended to include the MIS, and in August, both the senate and the house of representatives passed the bills. President Obama is set to seal and sign in 2011, and the living honorees are being medaled at a dinner in the fall of 2011. Between now and then, medals are being designed and created by the US Mint.
And there you have it . . . the official story. Pictures punctuate his life perfectly, so here's my Pop in December of 2010, with Middle. He wanted his picture taken with a future Olympic gymnast.