On behalf of the Japanese American Veterans Association, I welcome you to the Annual Freedom Walk. My name is Gerald Yamada, and I am President of JAVA. We are again proud to be a co-sponsor of this event.
The National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in World War II and the Freedom Walk tell the American story of how the government, motivated by prejudice, illegally restricted the freedoms and equality of persons of Japanese ancestry, and how the Nisei soldiers served to restore those fundamental rights.
The Nisei soldiers who served in World War II fought on the battlefields in Europe and in the Pacific. They fought against America’s enemies but also were fighting the war against prejudice at home.
They put themselves in harm’s way to prove their loyalty to the United States, while their family and friends were unjustly imprisoned at home. Those, who served, put country first.
They restored the dignity of all persons of Japanese ancestry with their personal courage.
Since the Memorial was dedicated in 2000, JAVA has hosted every year a Veterans Day program there to honor our veterans. We especially remember the 800 Japanese Americans soldiers who died during World War II. Their names are inscribed on the granite walls of this Memorial.
Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs selected JAVA’s November 11th program as one of the “Veterans Day observances throughout the country that represents a fitting tribute to America’s heroes.”
Today, we celebrate the legacy forged by the 33,000 Japanese Americans, who served in the US military during World War II. They served to restore freedom and equality as American values. The legacy of their sacrifices, and their spirit, must be remembered and honored.
The Memorial reminds us that we must guard against racially motivated governmental policies and decisions. We must promote programs to deter hate-motivated attacks aimed at any minority group. The war against prejudice is still on-going.
That is why the Memorial, the Freedom Walk, and JAVA’s Veterans Day program continue to be relevant, and important, 79 years after Executive Order 9066 was signed.