Dr. Mitch Maki: “Because of You, Our Nation is What It is Today”
Editor’s note: The following is the text of Dr. Mitchell Maki’s speech to the veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and their families and friends at the One Puka Puka’s 75th anniversary banquet. The gathering, which was attended by seven 100th Battalion veterans, was held July 23 at Dole Cannery’s Pömaika‘i Ballroom. Maki is the president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Go For Broke National Education Center, which is committed to perpetuating the legacy of the Nisei soldiers who fought in World War II.
The 100th Infantry Battalion was formed in June 1942, just six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It was originally made up of 1,432 prewar draftees who had served in the Hawai‘i National Guard. The unit lost its first member, Sgt. Shigeo “Joe” Takata, when he was killed in action on Sept. 29, 1943, just one week after the men entered combat in Italy. Less than an hour after Takata’s death, Pvt. Keichi Tanaka was killed by machine gun fire. In the spring of 1944, the 100th lost many of its men in the bloody battle to wrest the abbey at Monte Cassino from the Nazis — so many that soldiers from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who were just completing training, were sent in as replacements. The One Puka Puka would later become the 1st Battalion of the 442nd, but was allowed to keep its original name. To learn more about the 100th, visit www.100thbattalion.org.
The Herald thanks Dr. Maki for allowing us to share his speech with our readers.
Good afternoon everyone . . .
I’d like to start off my comments by acknowledging why we are here — and that is the veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion. Can we give them a round of applause? They are truly our heroes.
First of all, I’d like to thank the board of directors and the members of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans for inviting me here today. I’d like to also acknowledge the members of the 100th Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserves for what they’re doing for us here today. I’d like to also acknowledge our distinguished guests — people like Governor (David) Ige, (retired U.S.) Senator (Daniel) Akaka, (retired) General (David) Bramlett. Thank you for being here today.
But, most importantly, I want to thank the members — the family members and the veterans — that are here today. Thank you very much for inviting me.
When I walked into the room this morning and I looked around, I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. I’d like to start off my comments today by telling you a story about my grandmother. You see, if there is any word that would describe the life of my grandmother, that word would have to be “hard.” She came to this country as a young girl, worked on the plantations of Hawai‘i, got married at a young age and, by the time she was 30, had six children. My grandmother never lived much above the poverty line. So whatever hopes and dreams she had for a better tomorrow rested squarely on the shoulders of her children and of her grandchildren.
My grandmother didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Japanese. In fact, my favorite memory of her was of her chasing me around. “Bakatare! Bakatare!” I used to hear that term so often as a child I thought it was a term of endearment. “I thought she was saying, “My dear grandson! My dear grandson!” […]
For those of you who don’t know who Sgt. Kazuo Masuda was, he was a young Japanese American who served in the 442nd. His family was incarcerated in Gila River, Arizona, and he was asked, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you fighting for a nation that incarcerated your family and denied them the liberties and the freedom that you are fighting for?’ Sgt. Masuda’s answer was the answer that I think many, if not all of the Nisei soldiers were giving at that time, which was: Because this is the only way that I know that my family can have a chance in America. Agree with him or not, right or wrong, Sgt. Masuda and all of the Nisei soldiers understood that in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945, loyalty needed to be demonstrated in blood.
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