Gov. David Y. Ige
Governor of Hawai‘i (2015 to present)

Photo of veterans who attended the “Fighting Two Wars: Japanese American Veterans Tribute”
The veterans who attended the “Fighting Two Wars: Japanese American Veterans Tribute” gathered for a group photo prior to the start of the banquet. (Photo by Terry Takaki)

Aloha . . . It truly is an honor and a privilege for me to be here today as governor of the state of Hawai‘i.

My grandparents, the Issei, immigrated to Hawai‘i from Japan and Okinawa more than a hundred years ago in search of a better life and a future for their family. They came to work in the sugar plantations in Hawai‘i — weeding, cutting and hauling sugarcane by hand — back-breaking work for just pennies a day. As children, my parents, the Nisei, endured living conditions that were dramatically different from my own.

My mother Tsurue grew up on Kahuku Plantation on the North Shore of O‘ahu. My father, Tokio Ige, grew up in ‘Ewa Plantation on the west side. At that time, public schools in the rural communities only went to the eighth grade. You know, their options for their future were limited and many professional occupations not accessible.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, when the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, their lives changed forever. At first the War Department declared the Nisei as 4-C, enemy aliens, unfit for service. The Nisei felt a deep obligation to be grateful to the land of their birth — America. They were eager to prove their loyalty. Like many others, my dad volunteered to become a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II, just as my father-in-law (Sakuji Amano) had done.

Photo of 100th Infantry Battalion veterans Rikio Tsuda and Coolidge Wakai at the “Fighting Two Wars” banquet.
100th Infantry Battalion veterans Rikio Tsuda and Coolidge Wakai at the “Fighting Two Wars” banquet.

The 100th Battalion, 442nd Go for Broke Regimental Combat team was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. Over the course of the war, more than 14,000 men served, earning eight Presidential [Unit] Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 2,400 Bronze Stars and more than 9,400 Purple Hearts.

When my father and other Nisei soldiers returned, just as many of these veterans who are here today, they didn’t talk much about their experiences in Europe or the war at all. I had seen the scars on my father’s back and his leg when he had earned his Purple Heart. But he never talked about it. In fact, I never truly knew, until he passed away, that he earned his Purple Heart on October 29, 1944, in France, in the battle to rescue the “Lost Battalion.” I also learned that he earned the Bronze Star. But, you know, that’s the humility of this “Greatest Generation” of veterans who we are honoring here today.

But to all you veterans here, your work was not complete. Upon your return to Hawai‘i, you worked to ensure that everyone here in the Islands would become part of “a more perfect union,” as specified in the United States Constitution. You created a Hawai‘i for all of us where we are a community that celebrates our diversity, takes honor and encourages people to be proud of who they are and where they came from. To celebrate the diversity, the traditions, those routines that are so important to tying us back to where we came from. More importantly, you created a safe place for our children to grow up, get an education, and get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families. A place where the fears and challenges that once plagued our parents and grandparents are now nearly unimaginable to have existed here in Hawai‘i about a hundred years ago. A place that so many of us are proud to be able to call our home.

You know, I am so fortunate to be governor of the state of Hawai‘i and I know that I would not have this opportunity, this honor and privilege to serve all of you as your governor if not for the heroic deeds and actions of all of you veterans during World War II.

When I go back to my office this afternoon, and each and every day, I always ask myself: Am I adding to your legacy? Every action that I take as governor, I bear the burden of adding to the legacy that you have left for me.

So I just want to thank you for the honor and privilege. I want to thank you for all the people of Hawai‘i for the role model that you have helped to create here in these challenging times, to show to the rest of the country and the world how a more perfect union can exist right here in the Islands today.

Mahalo, and Aloha.

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