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.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.