LIHU‘E — Turk Tokita will have a special addition to his regalia when he attends the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, D.C., Nov. 2.
While attending the dedication of the Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic, a special delivery arrived at his home in Lihu‘e: the Legion of Honor medal, issued by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French government.
Recently, Masao Tamura of Kaua‘i received his Legion of Honor medal during the reception for the visiting delegation from Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France, celebrating the 50th anniversary of a sister city relationship with Honolulu.
Tokita, a 442 Regimental Combat Team veteran, was advised by Francois Delattre, the France Ambassador that President Sarkozy had appointed him a “Chevalier” of the Legion of Honor.
“This award testifies to President Sarkozy’s high esteem for your merits and accomplishments,” Delattre said in his letter notifying Tokita of the award. “In particular, it is a sign of France’s infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II.”
Delattre said the Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of great merit.
The Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit are the two most prestigious decorations in France, states a letter from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the French Embassy.
Both of these Orders have three distinct ranks, or grades in French — Chevalier, Officer and Commander — in ascending order, and two dignitaries, “Grand Officer” and “Grand Coix.”
“The French people will never forget your courage and your devotion to the great cause of freedom,” the Ambassador said.
Tokita said when he discovered he was the recipient of the award, he informed Delattre he would like to be wearing the medal when he attends the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“I am deeply honored that by decree of President Sarkozy has appointed me as a ‘Chevalier’ of the Legion of Honor,” Tokita said. “I am very grateful. I can never forget the dark forests of the Vosges mountains where we fought. I wasn’t in the rescue of the ‘Lost Battalion’ because I was seriously wounded in the area between Bruyeres and Biffontaine.”
Tokita, who will leave Saturday night for Washington, D.C. with his wife, Emi, and son Lane, will be joined by at least five other veterans from the 100th Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service in attending the prestigious ceremony.
He said, the veterans he is aware of from Kaua‘i who will be attending the Washington, D.C. service include Clint Shiraishi, Larry Inagaki, a resident of the Regency at Puakea, Jiro Yukimura, Stanley Segawa and Monty Nishie.
There are others who wanted to attend, but due to the strict regulations on guardianship and other restrictions, some of the veterans will be remaining on Kaua‘i, Tokita said, settling to attend the O‘ahu ceremony on Dec. 17.
But Tokita said those attending the Washington, D.C. ceremony will represent all of the veterans.
“I just wish they could come with us,” he said.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.