Wreath Presentation (Left to Right) Mitch Maki, CEO,Go For Broke National Education Center; Steve Moriyama, Commander,Veterans of Foreign Wars: 4th District Gardena Post 1961; James Nakamura, Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars: Kazuo Masuda Post 3670; Ken Hayashi, President, Veterans Memorial Court Alliance at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA.
By Robert Horsting
The COVID-19 era has again impacted how we can recognize and honor those heroes whose lives we lost in military service to our nation. As many of the annual Los Angeles County and Orange County regional Memorial Day services have been canceled due to safety concerns, the 2021 Memorial Day observance at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court has grown to include a coalition of sponsors and representatives of the various communities. Two Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts: 4th District Gardena Post 1961, Kazuo Masuda Post 3670, and the Go For Broke National Education Center joined host Veterans Memorial Court Alliance in co-sponsoring this ceremony and presenting a floral wreath to mark this occasion.
Our keynote speaker, Mr. Wade Ishimoto, is a Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) Life Time Member, and we are grateful to JAVA President Gerald Yamada for his recommendation of him to provide a special message for this observance. To say Mr. Ishimoto is very accomplished in his service to his (and our) nation would be a vast understatement at best. Serving as this year's MC, Helen Ota introduced Mr. Ishimoto with the following: He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Joint Special Operations University. Mr. Ishimoto retired as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy as a Highly-Qualified Expert in 2012 and was previously the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict from 2004 to 2007. In addition, he is a retired Army Special Forces officer who served multiple tours in Vietnam and a charter member of the Delta Force and its Intelligence Officer. Mr. Ishimoto is also a Special Operations Command Commando Hall of Fame inductee. He has many accomplishments, and we invite you to learn more about him by visiting memorialcourtalliance.org.
Keynote Speaker: Wade Y. Ishimoto.
Wade's words were honest, raw, and contemplative. As he spoke of those friends he lost in conflicts, he reminded us that although the focus of Memorial Day is to honor the memory of those who didn't make it home, we cannot forget the families, friends, and comrades who bear the weight of this sacrifice. As one young Gold Star wife recently shared, "From that day on, every day was Memorial Day." In telling the story of those friends he lost, he also showed us how they will live on in our memories, and how in finally finding the inner strength to tell someone what he bore witness to, was the beginning of his own path to healing. In allowing us the privilege of hearing his experience he again does service to us all and for our nation.
For those returning women and men in military service, the importance of sharing even the slightest, seemingly inconsequential detail can bring some peace of mind for the family by confirming the strength of their love, giving clarity to the lack of details, and illustrating that sense of security made in the bond between comrades-in-arms. Thirteen years after the loss of his friend a soldier told the Gold Star wife the details of her husband's loss and moments when he saw him touch his chest where he fastened their picture and a bit of her dress fabric, which carried the scent of her perfume, to the inside of his shirt. Hearing this provided her with a loving and cherished memory. In sharing, he was able to shed some of the weight he had been caring and she noticed a relaxed change in posture as this was the first time had spoken to anyone about these memories.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr and his wife McKenzie Fuchigami.His name was the most recent addition to the Japanese American National War Memorial
This story hit closer to home for the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance family, as the name of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr. was recently added to the wall, joining that community of heroes. He was an Apache helicopter pilot who lost his life while supporting ground troops in Logar Province in Afghanistan on November 20, 2019. We again extend our condolences, thoughts, and prayers to his wife McKenzie, his family, friends, and comrades.
The ceremony was well attended by representatives from community organizations, including the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum, and a range of people active in community service. As each person was announced they placed a white carnation by one of the black granite walls inscribed with nearly 1,200 names of those of Japanese heritage who died in U.S. military service since 1898 on the USS Maine to the present conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We hope that this Memorial Day will remind all Americans that their freedom came at a price, which was paid by others who answered the call to service.
Event Co-Chairs: David Miyoshi and Ken Hayashi, Veterans Memorial Court Alliance.
Video Available May 31, 2021, click here to watch or follow this link: https://www.memorialcourtalliance.org/memorial2021.