Saluting the late John Katsumi Iwamoto

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    John Katsumi Iwamoto, a Korean War veteran, won the Purple Heart award.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, standing sixth from left, is joined by more than a handful of people who turned out for Kahele’s tribute to the late John Katsumi Iwamoto Thursday at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center in Lihu‘e. Included here are fellow veterans and former Boy Scouts and leaders of Troop 83 at the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission, where Iwamoto was an active volunteer for decades.

  • Dennis Fujimoto /The Garden Island

    U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, left, is at attention Thursday while a Hawai‘i Army National Guardsman salutes Asako Iwamoto, widow of the late John Katsumi Iwamoto, after presenting the special American flag to the Iwamoto family, including daughter Brian and Lynne Takahara of Hilo, Hawai‘i.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele offers Asako Iwamoto, widow of the late John Katsumi Iwamoto, a lei of condolence and appreciation Thursday during a special tribute to Iwamoto at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center in Lihu‘e.

LIHU‘E — Noboru Nakamura, one of the more than 240 Japanese American casualties in the Korean War, threw himself on a grenade, sparing the life of his friend John Iwamoto.

Iwamoto never forgot the act of bravery, and related the incident to the many Boy Scouts he worked with during his tenure as a Scoutmaster for Troop 83, sponsored by the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission.

Many of those Scouts, former troop leaders and fellow veterans joined U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele Thursday when Kahele paid tribute to Iwamoto in a brief ceremony before Asako Iwamoto, widow of the Purple Heart winner, and Brian and Lynne Takahara, the couple’s daughter and son-in-law from Hilo, Hawai‘i Island.

Kahele, himself a member of the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, outlined the heroic acts of Iwamoto, who was decorated with the Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest rank, for, according to his citation, “gallantry in action when, with a disregard for his own safety, advanced across the fire-swept field to aid a wounded soldier.”

Kahele followed that with a presentation of a special American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol just the day before, the ceremony performed by fellow members of the Hawai‘i Army National Guard.

A personal message of condolence and appreciation with the traditional lei wrapped up the ceremony held before members of the Kaua‘i Veterans Council, a contingent from the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, Iwamoto’s family and the many Scouts who grew up under Iwamoto’s hand. Former Troop leaders also attended.

“He had a strong influence on my husband,” said Megan Nii, a teacher at the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School. “We need Mr. Iwamoto to watch our son grow up.”

Iwamoto was 92 years old when he passed away on March 15.

He leaves his wife Asako, children Lynne (Brian) Takahara, Kyle (Alison) Iwamoto and Eric (Patty) Iwamoto, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, brother Henry (Sachie) Iwamoto, sister-in-law Doris Iwamoto, and numerous nieces and nephews.

For Kahele, the tribute wraps up his special trip to Kaua‘i that started Monday and included numerous meetings with government, business, nonprofit and community leaders.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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