HANAPEPE — Korean War veteran Charlie Tamura’s casual conversation with Judi Murakami, daughter of 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran Tsuka Murakami, had a deeper meaning than casual conversation Sunday during the West Kauai Club 100 71st Memorial Service at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery.
“No forget the hand,” Tamura said. “No forget the hand that fed you.”
Murakami’s answer was quick.
“I not forgetting,” she said. “It’s my turn, now.”
Tamura and Murakami were among about 100 guests who honored veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, described as the most decorated unit during World War II.
Kazuma “Monte” Nishie, celebrating his 101st birthday in July, was one of two living veterans named by host Ken Morikawa, the son of veteran Mugsy Morikawa. Thomas Arakakai was the other veteran named, being unable to attend.
“Nishie, Clinton Shiraishi, and Tom Batey — all veterans — are national living treasures,” said Capt. Vincent Johnson, commanding officer of the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana. “The 100th Infantry Battalion holds this Memorial Service closest to Sept. 29 when, in 1943, Sgt Joe Takata became the first Killed in Action, earning the first Distinguished Service Cross for the unit.”
Johnson said the unit went on to earn numerous awards for its performance on the battlefields of Europe.
“You can read 600 pages or 6,000 pages,” Johnson said. “But you cannot understand these men until you stand before them. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, they and their families were labeled ‘enemy aliens’ and unfit to serve in the military. These were men who grew up learning of the American values in school. They also learned giri, or obligations, from their homes. They fought prejudice — and won. It is our kuleana to continue to fight for justice and equality.”
Souryo Kotoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission said these veterans have given their lives so we may live in freedom.
“We must continue to carry the burden of their sacrifice, lest we lose sight of what true freedom is, and what true peace is,” Hirao said.