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71st Annual Memorial Day Service Held at Arlington Cemetery

15 Jun 2019 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Gravesite of PFC Kiyoshi Murakami, Idaho, Co. G, 442nd RCT. KIA Po Valley, Italy campaign, three weeks before Germany surrendered. Grave No. 5123, Section 12-4. Bouquet of flowers placed by JACL WDC and JAVA; Hawaiian orchid lei is from David Iwata. Photo by Matthew Oelkers, member of Kobayashi family.

Washington, DC.  The 71st Annual Memorial Day Service, jointly sponsored by JACL WDC and the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), was held at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) on May 26, 2019.  The day began with a 45-minute program at the Columbarium Ceremonial Courtyard, attended by Minister Ken Mukai, Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan; MG Garrett S. Yee, USA, and Mrs. Yee; and JAVA members. Following the program, teams decorated the 90 gravesites of Japanese Americans and two Caucasians.  

Key Kobayashi, MIS veteran and JAVA’s inaugural vice president, began the Memorial Day gravesite decoration program in 1948.  When Key passed away in 1992 his family continued the project, with son Turner heading up logistics. This year the Kobayashi family was represented by 13 members coming from Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey.  Mrs. Kyoko Kobayashi, wife of Key, has ensured continuity and high standards by actively participating all 71 years.

Attendees heard from two guest speakers. First at the podium was Keegan Thai, a 5th grade student at US Senator Spark Matsunaga Elementary School, located in Germantown, MD, the only public school east of the Rockies known to be named to honor a Japanese American. Thai, whose cousin is a cadet at West Point, reflecting on the significance of Memorial Day, remarked that it is a day to honor our men and women who have sacrificed their lives to “protect our country with pride, honor and persistence.”  Next, CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA Ret, a former counter-terrorist expert with the Department of Defense, urged his audience to “encourage our youth to consider serving in our military, in law enforcement, or as firefighters, as these patriots are ready to give their lives to save others. Alternatively, prompt them to consider becoming public servants, teachers, or volunteers for civic-minded projects.“

Douglas Ichiuji, member of the Board of Directors of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), which is responsible for the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located on Capitol Hill, paid tribute to the American patriots, including the Japanese Americans, who are interred at Arlington Cemetery.  His father, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (and Poston Concentration Camp internee) and mother are both laid to rest at Arlington.

David Iwata, life member of JAVA, currently the Military Relations Committee Co-Chair for the Go For Broke National Education Center presented orchid leis flown in from Hawai’i to the 19 KIA 100th-442nd  members buried at ANC.  “As Co-Chair with Alan Hayashi, it was important for us to participate and recognize the 75th anniversary of the battle to rescue the Texas lost battalion, the defining moment in military history that cemented the legacy of the Nisei warriors.  By placing the orchid leis on the grave markers, we bring the ‘spirit of aloha,’ honoring their bravery and sacrifice,”  Iwata said.

In 2018 Sandra Tanamachi of Houston, Texas, the niece of Saburo Tanamachi, one of the first two Japanese Americans interred at Arlington, spoke about Saburo and his 442nd experience. In view of the favorable response to the 2018 event, Terry Shima was invited to speak this year on Sgt Kelly Yeiichi Kuwayama, a bemedaled 442nd combat medic. 

This event at Arlington National Cemetery is held each year on the Sunday before the Monday Memorial Day holiday.  If any family, friend, or colleague of a fallen hero interred at Arlington National Cemetery wishes to participate in this program and discuss the life/career/sacrifice of that individual, please contact Turner Kobayashi for additional information and scheduling.  Turner can be reached at turner@audleyfarm.com. If you wish to attend but not speak you are cordially invited.

71st Annual Memorial Day Service, Arlington.  Bugler (standing between Veterans and white crosses in the background) playing taps at the end of the 45-minute program. Photo by Nobuyuki Tanaka, Washington Bureau Chief, The Nishi Nihon Shimbun.

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