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Fighting Two Wars: A Tribute to AJA Veterans of World War II

Posted on Mar 17, 2017 in Main

Remarks of Governor David Ige as prepared

December 5, 2016 – Hawai`i Convention Center

Aloha.  It is an honor to be here today. I would not be standing here before you, as Governor of the State of Hawai‘i, had it not been for the strength and hard work of generations before me. My grandparents, the Issei, immigrated to Hawai‘i from Japan and Okinawa more than 100 years ago in search of a better life and a future for their family.  They came to work in the sugar plantations in Hawai‘i. Weeding, cutting, and hauling sugarcane by hand is back-breaking work, for just pennies a day.

As children, my parents, the Nisei, endured living conditions that were dramatically different from my own.  My mother, Tsurue Miota, grew up on Kahuku Plantation, on the North Shore of Oahu. My father, Tokio Ige, grew up in Ewa Plantation on the Westside.  At that time, public schools in the rural communities only went to the eighth grade. Their options for their future were limited, and many professional occupations not accessible.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, when the bombs fell at Pearl Harbor, their lives changed forever. At first, the war department declared the Nisei as 4C, “enemy aliens” unfit for service. The Nisei felt a deep obligation to be grateful to the land of their birth, America. They were eager to prove their loyalty. Like many others, my dad volunteered to become a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II just as my father-in-law had done.

The 100th Battalion 442nd “Go For Broke” Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history.  Over the course of the war, more than 14,000 men served, earning eight Presidential Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 2,400 Bronze Stars, and more than 9,400 Purple Hearts.

When my father and other Nisei soldiers returned, just as many of these veterans who are here today, they didn’t talk much about their experience in Europe or the war at all.  I had seen the scars on my father’s back and his leg when he had earned his Purple Heart, but he never talked about it. In fact, I never truly knew that until he passed away that he earned his Purple Heart on October 29, 1944, in France, in the battles to rescue the Lost Battalion.  I also learned that he earned a Bronze Star. That’s the humility of this greatest generation of veterans who we are honoring here today.

But to all you veterans here, your work was not complete. Upon your return to Hawai’i, you worked to ensure that everyone here in the islands would become part of a more perfect union as specified in the United States Constitution.  You created a Hawai‘i for all of us where we are a community that celebrates our diversity, takes honor and encourages people to be proud of who they are and where they came from, to celebrate the diversity, the traditions, and those routines that are so important to tying us back to where we came from.

More importantly, you created a safe place for our children to grow up, get an education, and get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families–a place where the fears and challenges that once plagued our parents and grandparents are now nearly unimaginable to have existed here in Hawai‘i about 100 years ago, a place that so many of us are proud to be able to call our home.

You know, I am so fortunate to be Governor of the State of Hawai‘i and I know that I would not have this opportunity, this honor and privilege to serve all of you as your Governor if not for the heroic deeds and actions of all of you veterans during World War II.  Now when I go back to my office this afternoon, and each and every day, I always ask myself, “Am I adding to your legacy?” Every action that I take as Governor I bear the burden of adding to the legacy that you have left for me.

So I just want to thank you for the honor and privilege.  I want to thank you for all the people of Hawai‘i for the role model that you have helped to create here in these challenging times to show to the rest of the country and the world how a more perfect union can exist right here in the islands today.

Mahalo and aloha!