Friday, November 11, 2011

Go For Broke!

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner presents a Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in honor of Japanese-American veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. These units served with distinction during World War II. November 2, 2011. Photo: Speaker of the House John Boehner. Creative Commons CC BY-NC

November 2 was a proud day for me as an American of Japanese ancestry, and as an American period. On that historic day, the Congress of the United States awarded its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively to three World War II-era units of the U.S. military: the Army's 100th Batallion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. The valor in combat of the 100th/442nd has already made them the most decorated units in Army history, but these awards are significant for another reason.

As Speaker of the House John Boehner put it, the Japanese Americans of my dad's generation fought "a two-fronted battle of discrimination at home and fascism abroad" with an enthusiasm reflected in their motto, "Go For Broke." They met the virulent racism of the day with an unshakable patriotism and a heroic defense of the very country that forcibly interned them and their families for years, without due process, presumption of innocence, and other protections of the Constitution.

The 100th/442nd/MIS stand with other segregated military units like the Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines as shining examples of what it means to be an American, even when some of their fellow Americans considered them unworthy of the title. Over sixty years later, we still live in an imperfect country, but it is still the last best hope on Earth.

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