Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 |
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HANAPEPE — Monte Nishie, 99, and Bunkichi Matsuyoshi, 94, sat in the front row, veiled in the silence of age at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery.
The pair was joined in spirit by Thomas Arakaki, Futsetsu Miyazaki, Kazuo Senda and Masao Yotsuda who were not able to attend in person Sunday as a crowd of about 100 people took time out to remember the fallen veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion.
“They’ve been doing this for 69 years,” said Susan Honjiyo, daughter of 100th Battalion veteran Kungo Iwai. “This year, it’s just not the same because just Saturday, services for Jack Hada were held here. Jack used to come every year.”
The surviving members of Jack Hada’s family did the honors of presenting the wreath completed by surviving members of 100th Battalion fallen veterans.
“I know them, and I remember them,” said Ross Shimabukuro, son of veteran Choichi Shimabukuro, listening to the list of 100th veterans. “I was just talking with a guy who remembers the Christmas parties.”
Each year, the 100th Infantry Battalion Memorial Service is held on a Sunday closest to Sept. 26, when the unit suffered its first casualty — Sgt. Joe Takata — of World War II.
According to the list of veterans provided by Club 100 president Ken Morikawa, Kauai produced about 50 soldiers, including the surviving six veterans. They were all Nissei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans, for the unit which was a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, no unit in World War II had more to prove to a wary nation than the Nissei making up the 442nd RCT and the 100th Battalion, many being sons whose parents were being shipped to internment camps.
“You know them,” said Tony Elliott, the Kauai Veterans Services Counselor. “They come from next door to you and from the community, and they are all your friends.”
By the end of World War II, the 100th emerged as one of the greatest fighting units on the battlefields of Italy and France, earning eight Medals of Honor, 24 Distinguished Service Crosses, 147 Silver Stars, 1,703 Purple Hearts and three Presidential Unit Citations.
“I’m a member of the Honor Guard,” said Athena Abadilla, a Waimea High School JrROTC cadet. “To be asked to participate in a ceremony paying tribute to one of the most decorated units is truly an honor for me.”
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