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Keeping History Alive! -- 11th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner

Pictured from Left to Right: Barbara Coons, Go For Broke Accounting; Richard Miyazato, MHA, Carelife Director & Founder; Don Nose, Go For Broke President; Peggy Renke, Go For Broke Office Manager (Property of Carelife, Inc.)

Growing up a Shin-Nisei in Gardena, my parents laid a strong foundation for my appreciation of the past and respecting our elders. My mother in particular was an avid reader who loved history and sharing countless stories that always seemed endless. There were many moments during my childhood when our dinner conversations would be filled with history and life lessons, from my grandfather’s heroic efforts in Burma during World War II, to the atrocities suffered by the Jews.

Sumi and Manabi Hirasaki (Photo courtesy of Hirasaki Family)

As the 11th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner, honoring our WWII Nisei Veterans approaches, I can now truly appreciate my parent’s passion for history and placing a high value in spending quality time for meaningful conversations with our family, friends, and elders. I feel a sense of honor partnering with Go For Broke National Education Center in providing free door to door transportation and escort service to our WWII Nisei Veterans and their spouses for the Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner. I have been very blessed to have had the pleasure of meeting many of our WWII Nisei Veterans through my work at Carelife, providing caregivers for older adults throughout Los Angeles County and Orange County. Two WWII Nisei Veterans in particular hold a very special place in my heart, Mr. Manabi Hirasaki and Mr. Frank Fukuzawa.

As the life and legacy of Mr. Manabi Hirasaki was celebrated at a special public program on Saturday, September 8th at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), I can’t help but to reflect on my meeting with Mr. Hirasaki, which had a profound impact on my decision to support the Go For Broke National Education Center.

My drive up to Camarillo on a Saturday morning on June 16, 2012 was filled with anticipation as I approached the Hirasaki residence. Although I have visited the Hirasaki National Resource Center at JANM and read his book, A Taste For Strawberries: The Independent Journey Of Nisei Farmer Manabi Hirasaki, I never had an opportunity to meet him.

(Photo courtesy of Hirasaki Family)

Mr. Hirasaki quickly put me at ease by welcoming me into his home and sharing his personal stories of hard work and unity, perseverance, overcoming hardships, and other life experiences. At one point, Mr. Hirasaki paused and poignantly described in detail his chilling encounter with some of the Jewish survivors in Dachau, Germany. Mr. Hirasaki was part of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion that was one of the driving forces that helped to liberate Jewish survivors of the Landsberg-Kaufering Dachau Death March and Dachau sub-camps.1 He described how the 522nd was ordered not to give food to the Jewish survivors despite their emaciated figure, because it could hurt their digestive systems and kill them. Frankly, I was overwhelmed with unexplainable emotions as I tried to comprehend the impact of war.

What clearly stood out with respect to Mr. Hirasaki was his humility and his willingness to open up to me about his concerns that he and his wife were facing.

Carelife Caregiver assisting with transportation and escort (Property of Carelife, Inc.)

One of their biggest challenge was driving, especially long distance driving in the evening. Mr. Hirasaki expressed his keen desire to stay active within the JA community and attend meetings and special events. At the same time, like most Niseis, I sensed the Japanese values of “enryo” and “gaman” as Mr. Hirasaki avoided any thought of receiving help from his children or friends for their transportation and other daily needs. He went on to say that many of his WWII Nisei Veteran friends shared similar concerns and were searching for community options. Inspired, I headed home with a mission of contacting Go For Broke National Education Center and pitching my idea on maximizing Carelife’s 150+ caregivers that we employ in SoCal, and providing free transportation and escort to any WWII Nisei Veterans with transportation needs for special events. (Click here for info about the Evening of Aloha Transportation Service >>)

Pictured from Left to Right: Mrs. Nami Fukuzawa; Mr. Frank Fukuzawa; Richard Miyazato, MHA, Carelife Director & Founder (Property of Carelife, Inc.)

When I first met Mr. Frank Fukuzawa, I couldn’t help but notice his white Go For Broke hat, as he sat tall in his living room sofa with his wife Nami, his son Leigh, and his daughter Sheryl. I hesitantly asked about his hat, and sure enough, he spoke proudly of his time at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona and being drafted to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The more we talked, the more I realized how many things we had in common. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Mr. Fukuzawa had lived in his current home on 153rd street in Gardena since the early 1950s. From first to sixth grade, I attended 153rd Elementary School in Gardena and lived only a few blocks away from school. I started reminiscing with Mr. Fukuzawa about my early childhood years walking to school and riding my bicycle on 153rd street with my JA friends.

Despite our generation gap, it was truly amazing to share wonderful memories that we both hold dearly in our hearts on the streets of 153rd. At the 2011 Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner, multi-platinum singer/songwriter Harold Payne performed his touching song titled, “Quiet Heroes,” in tribute to the WWII Nisei Veterans. Mr. Fukuzawa described Harold Payne, a friend of Leigh, as a great kid who lived across the street and 4 houses down. According to Leigh, the song was written after being inspired by three WWII Nisei Veterans—his father Frank Fukuzawa, Harry Komatsu, and “Horse” Tadakuma—who either lived or worked on 153rd street in Harold’s neighborhood. Nowadays, Mr. Fukuzawa keeps busy by attending Go For Broke meetings every Monday and Gardena Valley Baptist Church every Sunday with his wife and daughter.

On a quiet, unassuming neighborhood in Gardena where I grew up, I did not realize how much history ran through the streets of 153rd. All these history lessons were sparked by a conversation with Mr. Fukuzawa. Unfortunately, technology and the rapid pace lifestyle we live today have had an impact in the decline of meaningful conversations in many households. Today, our language is evolving into texts, tweets, and Facebook. I believe it is important to recapture the art of lost conversation and have an open mind to the possibilities for good, meaningful conversations. It is important to treat every person we encounter as if they have something important to teach us. By sharing and conversing with each other, we expand our world just a little bit and opens the door for new discoveries and inspirations. Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner gives us an opportunity to sit down, face each other, and share stories and thoughts that give meaningful time.

Portrait of various WWII Nisei Veterans (Courtesy of Go For Broke National Education Center)

Yielding to the inalterable process of aging, our WWII Veterans are now in their late 80s and 90s. According to the recent U.S. Veterans Administration figures, there are roughly 1.7 million WWII Veterans living today, and are dying quickly at the rate of 740 a day.2 To illustrate the urgency of our partnership, there are approximately only 2,900 WWII Nisei Veterans living today, according to Mr. Don Nose, President of Go For Broke National Education Center. Honoring our WWII Nisei Veteran heroes and giving them a platform to share their stories in person, is at the heart of Carelife’s involvement with Go For Broke National Education Center. “There’s no time to lose. I want to be able to dedicate our time in helping our WWII Nisei Veterans in safely getting to and from the Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner and thanking them for their sacrifice and service to our country, while we still have the opportunity to do so. Their stories are their legacy. Without preserving them, they will be lost. Each WWII Nisei Veteran has a unique experience that can only be told through their voice.”

Pictured from Left to Right: Barbara Coons, Go For Broke Accounting; Richard Miyazato, MHA, Carelife Director & Founder; Don Nose, Go For Broke President; Peggy Renke, Go For Broke Office Manager (Property of Carelife, Inc.)

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11th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner
October 13, 2012
The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites
404 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

Doors open at 5:00pm

For more information about the Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner, visit: www.goforbroke.org/eveningofaloha

*Door to Door Transportation and Escort Service provided by Carelife Home Care’s Personnel for Veterans with transportation needs. To schedule a transportation pickup with Carelife Home Care, please contact: Tel: 310.373.6030 Email: info@carelifeinc.com.

Evening of Aloha transportation service >>

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References:

1. Go For Broke National Education Center: Historical Information, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.

2. Department of Veterans Affairs, America’s Wars, Nov 2011.

© 2012 Richard Miyazato

california Carelife Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner Frank Fukuzawa Gardena Go for Broke manabi hirasaki nisei veterans WWII