HANAPEPE — Esther Portela of Firth, Idaho, wiped a tear from her eye Sunday while watching her husband Stew Portela chat with Sgt. Major Keith Castaneda at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery.
“We are so thrilled to be able to participate in this ceremony honoring the 100th Infantry Battalion,” Esther said. “It is especially inspiring to see the youth and the respect they have for their elders and the veterans.”
Esther and Stew Portela happened to see the sign announcing the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery while driving by, and were thrilled to discover the 70th memorial service hosted by the West Kauai Club 100.
Ken Morikawa, president of the West Kauai Club 100, announced the arrival of Monty Nishie of Kilauea, the sole West Kauai Club 100 veteran who was able to attend the service.
Nishie recently celebrated his 100th birthday and is scheduled to receive a special centenarian visit from the Consul General of Japan in the near future.
“Thomas Arakaki is another 100th Btn veteran, but can’t attend,” Morikawa said. “There are several other veterans out on the North Shore who are veterans of the 100th Btn, but they are not members of the West Kauai Club 100.”
Morikawa said the West Kauai Club 100 was formed because during World War II when the nisei soldiers joined the armed services. The majority of the soldiers were from Kauai’s Westside.
The memorial service is celebrated on the Sunday closest to Sept. 29, which is when the 100th Infantry Battalion, then situated in Salerno, Italy, suffered its first fatality — when Shigeo “Joe” Takata was killed while locating enemy machine gun locations by deliberately exposing himself to their fire.
“This is most inspiring,” said the Rev. Tomo Hojo of the West Kauai Hongwanji Mission, who presided over the services. “This is the first time I’ve done the memorial service, and it is inspiring how many people are here. This is a big crowd. It is also heartwarming to see the amount of ohana, or family feeling there is among the people attending.”
Capt. Bruce Hay, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, said the 100th Infantry Battalion were inspirational in removing doubts about citizenship for soldiers who wear the colors of the nation in battle for freedom and democracy.
“Today, becoming a citizen, if you are not one, is part of boot camp,” Hay said. “There was a presidential action on citizenship for soldiers following the 9/11 tragedy, but today, you become a citizen as part of boot camp.”
Rep. Dee Morikawa, whose father-in-law was a 100th Infantry veteran, said her state capitol office is a tribute to not only the 100th Infantry, but the 442nd Regimental Combat Team as well.
“My office at the state capitol is ‘442,’” Rep. Morikawa said. “Inside the office, there is a photo of the Congressional Gold Medal group, and the photo of these 100th Infantry Battalion.”
Ken Morikawa led the group of more than a hundred people in a round of “Happy Birthday,” to celebrate Nishie’s centenarian status.
“I used to like those Christmas parties,” hosted by West Kauai Club 100, said Mike Ishibashi, who made a special trip to Kauai from Honolulu for the service. “I remember those brown paper bags with the orange, apple and assorted nuts. I think we all remember that.”
The West Kauai Club 100 hosted everyone to a short lunch following the service.