We sat down at the dining room table for a visit; the conversation started slow, it usually does, but it is not a problem. You see, I’ve learned allot from the man sitting across from me; most of what I’ve learned is not from what he has told me, it is by what he’s demonstrated. I wish I could exhibit as much character as he has shown over the years. His tracks cover a lot of ground; San Francisco, Alaska, Seattle, and now he lives in Spokane. I catch myself wondering how many people he has met, helped, and encouraged?
I know him simply as Uncle Harry, and many of us owe our lives to him. He won’t tell you of his triumphs, especially if he thinks you’re going to make him stand in front of a group to be acknowledged for what he considers routine; actually, he won’t speak if he thinks you’re up to any kind of recognition. He served in World War II and he told me of landing in Italy and going up towards France. He made it sound like a march they made in a day. Somewhere in the middle of his assignments, he got to visit Switzerland. He was quite impressed with the Swiss; they keep their streets clean and respect their community. That’s the whole story I got from him today. But it was enough to start an interest, some research, take a field trip, and find out some history…. some amazing history.
There is a small memorial in Washington D.C. to honor people like Uncle Harry. It is just off the beaten path, not far from the Capitol Building and Union Station. It is set up like a garden; it is peaceful and tranquil. Many tourists miss it as they pass by to see the grander sites and bigger memorials.You can feel the honor and respect in this small space; the honor of courage, heritage, and perseverance. The Memorial honors the heroism and sacrifice of Japanese Americans and tells the story of those who supported their nation on the home front. It’s a story of patriotism, perseverance, posterity, and the rights of every American. It is a story of triumph over tragedy (1). Moving us to persevere through personal trails, symbolizing an integrated culture, once beaten and bruised, but moving toward healing.
Every unit has a battle cry used to stir up bravery in the face of the battle. As a military man, he remembers his unit’s battle cry: Go For Broke. There are many who looked at this unit as a label, perhaps a place to put undesirables; it is obvious ignorance played into that perspective.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was a diverse group of Japanese descendants that had to face two battle fronts, the one we call the European Theatre in World War II, the other one is called prejudice. The 442nd is the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Military (2), most likely due to the high respect and desire to honor their family heritage.
Whatever their motivation was, it is inspiring to me to know they fought for a country who believed their people to be enemies.
Many quickly overlook the commitment and contribution of this quiet man and his cohorts. On this Veteran’s Day, we honor those on the front line who fought for our freedoms, as well as those who were behind the scenes, supporting the efforts and encouraging the warriors.
Thank you Uncle Harry for all that you have done; both the seen and the unseen.
(1) from http://njamf.com