DAV Members Awarded Congressional Gold Medal, Bronze Star
By Ashleigh Bryant
Department of Washington Commander Ryan Nabors, left, with Nisei Veteran Joe Saito at the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal in Seattle.
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded by Congress, has been bestowed upon a special group of World War II veterans in Seattle. Ninety-five Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) veterans were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in World War II. Eighteen veterans also received the Bronze Star for valor.
Of the 95 veterans, 20 are DAV members from Washington state, including half of the Bronze Star recipients.
“Even after so many years, it is wonderful to see these veterans honored for their service and sacrifice,” said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “We are incredibly proud to have so many of these brave individuals in the fold of our membership.”
In September 2010, Congress passed legislation that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Nisei veterans, and President Obama signed the bill into law in November 2011. Twenty-six veterans, six widows and more than 320 family members from the Washington Nisei Veterans Committee attended the bill signing and initial award ceremony.
Since many of the living Nisei veterans were unable to attend the formal presentation because of scheduling and health concerns, a second ceremony was held in Seattle to afford the veterans an opportunity to receive their awards in person.
Japanese Americans were not initially allowed to join the military following the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many Nisei along the West Coast were interned in camps and treated as possible enemies. Eventually, some Japanese-American men either volunteered or were drafted from the internment camps to take part in the military campaign.
“These men not only fought the war overseas, but they faced a lot of prejudice here at home,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “This is simply the right thing to do. The years do not diminish the many sacrifices these veterans made, and years should not make us forget.”
Department of Washington Commander Ryan Nabors attended the Seattle ceremony and said the Nisei veterans leave a legacy that Americans are indebted to.
“After the event, I was honored to join with Nisei veterans and their families to thank them for their great service and talk to them about family, the friends they lost in combat and how far America has come,” said Nabors. “I was thanked by a member of the Nisei veterans community for the openness of the DAV and acceptance they feel by fellow DAV members.”
The veterans were members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regiment. During WWII, the Regimental Combat Team received seven Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals and more than 4,000 Purple Hearts.
“The legacy of Nisei soldiers will never die because they made history, and their war record proves it,” said Nabors. “They became one of the most decorated military units in history, and that is something we as Americans can appreciate.”