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Stories From My Grandpa

Stories From My Grandpa
By Kristen Nemoto Jay

Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, 442nd RCT Cannon Co.

photo of Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, 442nd RCT Cannon Co.

I don’t remember my grandfather. Not personally, anyway. The only memories I have of him consist of a bleak image of a large J.F.K. velvet painting that he loved, which greeted (or scared) folks who’d walk through the front door of my grandmother’s house. That house was burglarized more times than I can remember growing up but not a single one thought to steal Jr. from the wall. I’d like to think it’s because they knew Grandpa would hunt them down, which—from what I also heard growing up—wouldn’t have been too far off from the truth.

No, sadly, I didn’t know him. There were stories about his time spent fighting in WWII and the Purple Heart he received from serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. But what especially stuck were tales of his parenting style, and the consensus was: strict. His kids—my mother, her three sisters and two brothers—would reference the Von Trapp family a lot; well before they were singing in the mountains with Maria. But because my grandparents had divorced before I was born, and he remarried to have another life in Arizona soon after, I never got the chance to get to know what he was really like.

It wasn’t until he was on his deathbed in 1999, during my freshman year in high school, when I finally found the courage to write him a letter. I don’t remember what I’d written, but according to my mother, when she flew up to see him and say her goodbyes, Grandpa couldn’t stop crying. “He was very touched,” my mom said to me, and I felt bad that my last and only contact with him made him grieve even more.

After his death, years passed on as if — for me anyway — he didn’t exist. I moved on to college in California, then on to grad school soon after in Chicago. And in the beginning of 2013, I’d landed my dream job as a writer in Honolulu. Coincidentally that same year I pitched and wrote a story about an upcoming trip that my family and I were about to embark on: Honolulu to Bruyères 2013 Tour Sister Cities. A trip that would retrace all the steps that Grandpa, and thousands of other Nisei soldiers, took when they were just young adults themselves.

To be quite honest, when I originally signed up to go, I was more excited for the trip to Europe than to learn about a grandfather I hardly knew. Of course I had some interest to try and comprehend what he and so many young men had to go through during a time of great turmoil, but truthfully, I was in it for the rumored endless supply of wine and buttery Croissants.

But after digging deeper into Grandpa’s particular role in Hawai‘i’s connection to the city of Bruyères, I was intrigued to find that he created the initial bond between the two unlikely friendships. I found out that years after the war, he returned to the city and became friends with resident Gerard Deschaseaux. That handshake would then be the first step in creating a close friendship that would last well into my generation.

Then, by day two of the tour in Europe—when I met up with 50-plus Hawai‘i people who were a part of the tour—I realized this trip was already meaning more than I could possibly imagine. For in the short span of nine days, I had gained memories and lessons that would last a lifetime. These experiences included a tour of the grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp where our Nisei grandfathers once fought off Nazis soldiers; a meet and greet with families whose fathers and grandfathers helped save those who couldn’t pronounce their own last names and vice versa. I met an elder man in Bruyères who broke down into tears after learning that I was a descendant of a Nisei soldier. I made friends with every French person on the tour bus without knowing a smidgen of their language. I watched our American flag rise proudly within the forest of Biffontaine, where nearby in the Vosges Mountains, 800 Nisei soldiers once fought and died (Editor’s note: this figure is for all 100th/442nd soldiers killed during the war) to save the Lost Battalion of 275 trapped soldiers. I paid my respects to the soldiers who didn’t make it home from the war at the Epinal American Cemetery. And I cried as French children sang, with perfect pronunciation, Hawai‘i’s state song of “Hawai‘i Pono‘i.”

Image of American Cemetery

Image of American Cemetery

After the trip, I’ve been blessed to see a whole new meaning and profound appreciation for my life. My grandfather and his Nisei brothers are the reasons why I’m able to have the life that I live today. The very reason why I was able to go to school and have opportunities to succeed. It’s as if they knew, when they were all fighting in the cold mountains of France, so far from home, that their service would mean so much more than themselves one day. That their sacrifice for freedom and proven loyalty will carry on and be remembered by their children’s children’s children.

The Holck family on the Honolulu to Bruyeres 2013 Tour

The Holck family on the Honolulu to Bruyeres 2013 Tour

Although it’s a bit late in my life, I’m happy to have learned more about my grandpa. And even though I may not have known him personally, I feel as if he has always been with me. His legacy lives on: I just have to pay a bit more attention. During our trip to Bruyères, I did see him. I saw his bravery in the cold cells of the Dachau Concentration Camp. I felt his compassion for the elder man who cried tears of joy for saving his family from Nazi persecution. I saw his love for his family and country in the American flag that rose high within the forest of Biffontaine. I saw his deep sorrow and pain within the thousands of unmarked graves of his brothers who didn’t make it home. I felt his pride when I heard those children sing our state anthem. I even felt his sense of humor in The Sound of Music tour while we were in Austria (my family insisted we attend); and his love for life within our French hosts whom did indeed pour us all endless glasses of French wine throughout our entire nine-day tour. Although my grandfather and I haven’t been formally introduced, I know he has been and always will be with me.
And with that, I want to say this to him:
Thank you, Grandpa. And until we meet again, I’ll always remember you.
Love,
Kristen
(Granddaughter of Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck)

photo of author, Kristen Nemoto Jay

photo of author, Kristen Nemoto Jay

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Nisei Veterans Legacy fundraiser on March 2, 2017

The Nisei Veterans Legacy is holding a fundraising event on Thursday, March 2, 2017.  Please help the NVL continue its efforts to preserve and promulgate the legacy of the Nisei soldiers of World War II by attending and/or making a donation.

The theme of the Nisei Veterans Legacy fundraiser is “Preserving the Past, Inspiring the Future”.  The event will be at the Pomaika‘i Ballroom, Dole Cannery Iwilei on Thursday, March 2, 2017 from 5:30-8:30 pm starting with a silent auction.  The keynote speaker will be former Governor George Ariyoshi.  Cost is $75 per person which includes complimentary heavy pupus and one drink.  To sign up, please contact Shirley Igarashi at skigarashi@gmail.com.  The deadline for registration is Feb.20, contact Shirley prior to this date.

Governor George Ariyoshi and family at his 88th birthday party

Governor George Ariyoshi and family at his 88th birthday party

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S&D members march in 2016 Veterans Day Parade

Some of the S&D marching group before the parade
Sons & Daughters members march in 2016 Veterans Day Parade

On November 11, 2016 a group of Sons & Daughters of the 442nd RCT members and others community members marched with a group of descendants from the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans (Rural Chapter) in the annual Veterans Day Parade in Wahiawa.

Friday, November 11, 2016 was a bright and sunny day, resulting in our umbrellas being unnecessary and left in our cars. Sun screen, hats and dark glasses were more in order for the day. About a dozen members of the Sons and Daughters chapter walked in the annual Veterans Day parade up California Avenue, the main drag in the former plantation town of Wahiawa. We joined a group of descendants from the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans (Rural Chapter) at the invitation of president Stephen Saito, the Yonsei grandson of a Nisei veteran, Masaharu “Bull” Saito.

The Sons & Daughters group was coordinated by Grace Fujii, S&D Chapter President, and consisted of Bill Wright, Juanita Wright Allen, Laura Hirayama, Anita Nihei, her son Gavin and his friend Brant, Susan Yoshitomi, Laughlin Tanaka, Gail Nishimura and Byrnes Yamashita. Jeannie Ishikawa stopped by just before the start of the parade to say hello and to give us encouragement before heading off to march with her Neighborhood Board group.

We proudly carried the huge banner of the Sons & Daughters of the 442 RCT and a large poster created by S&D member Ron Takamoto, depicting the famous 442 RCT Liberty Torch with the words “GO FOR BROKE!” The tagline on the banner read “The Legacy Lives On.” Grace had a frame made of PVC pipe which made the banner very easy to carry. Our combined group was given the honor of being the 10th marching group and we gamely fell in line behind the Veterans of Foreign Wars caravan. The parade route was just a little over a mile long and slightly uphill in places. The street was lined with many people who cheered us on in a spirit of patriotism and gratitude for all of the veterans that have served our country over the years.

Besides its deep plantation roots, Wahiawa is also strongly influenced by nearby Schofield Barracks and there was a lot of spirited support for the marchers. Several members commented on how nice it was to meet the 100th Infantry Battalion descendants and expressed the desire to have more joint activities with them. Stay tuned for news of any upcoming joint activities.
Our combined marching group at Wahiawa District Park after the parade

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UPDATE 2 to 74th 442nd RCT Anniversary Banquet

UPDATE 2 – Assistance Needed

• ALL S&D members and families attending the banquet
Assistance is needed on banquet day:
1) Drivers may be needed to pick up veterans/wives and elder guests and bring to the Sheraton.
2) Help may be needed to escort veterans from drop-off at the Sheraton drive way (by valet service) to the ballroom, before and after the event. Wheelchairs will be available for those who need to use one. Arrival time for volunteers, 8:45 please.
3) Helpers to place favors and centerpieces on tables. Arrival time 8:00.

Please email Mae Isonaga, maeisonaga@mac.com if you can help with any of these duties.

• Come Early! The banquet committee will show a 23 minute documentary, “Senator Inouye: As Told By His Son”, by Gloria Borland. The planned time slot will be approx. 1000, after the picture taking of veterans at 0930.

• Note on menu: There has been a small change to the meat entree, which will now feature chicken only instead of chicken and short ribs. The vegetarian option for those who selected this with your registration will feature portobello ravioli.

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Fighting Two Wars AJA Veterans Tribute

Nisei Veterans gathered for official photo at AJA tribute luncheonBy Gail Nishimura, S&D

It was a very interesting afternoon.  To see and talk to many veterans and their families was really something that I will remember for a long time. There were so many people who came out to honor the veterans and the slide show that was playing in the background was an additional highlight.  It was nice to see my uncle’s picture when it popped up.  photo of slide show

Most of the veterans posed for the official picture, I think this was a big challenge for the photographers.  But the photo came out really nice!

photo of one of the group pictures

The mistress of ceremonies, Leslie Wilcox, kept the program moving smoothly. I was really impressed with the speakers, starting with Governor David Ige, followed by former Governor George Ariyoshi, and our keynote speaker Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. When I first heard that Gov. Ariyoshi was with the MIS, I was really surprised.  Thought he was too young to be in the war! (Although he didn’t go into the service until 1944 and is about four years younger than my uncle, who was also in the MIS).

I enjoyed the speakers and each brought a slightly different perspective to how the war affected their families and their own lives.  Gov. Ige’s father was part of the 100th Infantry Battalion, already noted was Gov. Ariyoshi’s service in the MIS, and Admiral Harris’ mother was from Japan & he was raised in Tennessee. Seems that Gov. Ariyoshi and my uncle had the similar “notice” from Uncle Sam…one day my uncle was in 522B at Camp Shelby and the next day he was headed to Fort Snelling in Minnesota! Gov. Ariyoshi thought he was getting out of the service but was sent to Fort Snelling instead.  (Note: my uncle now lives in Tennessee!)

One of my tablemates at the tribute was a Leilehua grad like me and we were impressed with the Leilehua High School Honors Chorus – nice to see our alma mater represented! Good job!

Overall, I enjoyed the day, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. The speeches were inspiring and makes me want to try and be a better person and live up to what my parents tried to teach me as a person of Japanese ancestry.

Pearl Harbor 75th Fighting Two Wars luncheon-Dec5-inside photo

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11th Annual Joint Memorial Service

Distinguished guests and Barbara Tanabe, mistress of ceremony for this year's JMS

Distinguished guests and Barbara Tanabe, mistress of ceremony for this year’s JMS

11th Annual Joint Memorial Service – sponsored by the Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVLC)
The 11th Annual Joint Memorial Service (JMS) was held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Sunday, September 25, 2016.

The JMS honors the soldiers who served in World War II in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. It is held annually on the last Sunday of September to commemorate September 29, 1943, the day that Shigeo “Joe” Takata of the 100th Infantry Battalion became the first AJA killed in action in World War II. This year’s service adopted the theme of the 75th anniversary commemoration of the bombing of Pearl Harbor: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future.

The keynote speaker was attorney and former State Senator Matt Matsunaga, son of the late U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga who served in both the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service. Matt described his father’s long-time efforts to establish the U.S. Institute of Peace, which was inspired primarily from his wartime experience.

Lynn Heirakuji, whose father Walter Heirakuji served in K Company of the 442nd RCT, was the event Chairperson and Barbara Tanabe, whose father Frank Tanabe served with the MIS, was the emcee. Mahalo to all the hardworking volunteers who made this event possible.

Next year’s JMS will be held on Sunday, September 24 and the NVLC is seeking a chairperson or co-chairpersons. Please contact Wes Deguchi at 722-4728 if you are able to serve and help continue this important legacy event to honor the Nisei soldiers of WWII.

The attendees at the JMS, including Gov. and Mrs. Ige and Admiral Harry Harris.

The attendees at the JMS, including Gov. and Mrs. Ige and Admiral Harry Harris.

To Watch the JMS on Oceanic Ch. 53

The 11th Annual JMS was filmed and will be shown on Oceanic Ch. 53 on these dates.
11/6/2016 at 6:30 pm
11/7/2016 at 08:00 am
11/9/2016 at 10:30 pm
11/13/2016 at 2:30 pm

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2016 S&D Family Christmas Party

2016 Sons and Daughters Family Christmas Party.
Photo of 442 veterans R. Kishinami, K. Ego and R. Nomura
The annual 442nd Sons & Daughters Family Christmas Party was held on Saturday, December 10, 2016 at the 100th Infantry Battalion Clubhouse with the attendance of a little over 100 individuals. It was an event filled with merriment and memories for all. We were honored by the presence of three 442nd RCT veterans – Kenji Ego, Robert Kishinami, and Richard Nomura. Ann Kabasawa continues to amaze everyone with her organizational skills in chairing this event for the past few decades. Her dedication and commitment to the organization should be applauded by us all.

Lunch included an array of dishes such as tossed salad, fruit salad, a variety of sushi, rice, noodles, spring rolls, curry stew, and sweet sour spareribs. Dessert was on display on another table, with a beautiful Christmas cake centerpiece surrounded by brownies, various kinds of mochi, cupcakes, and other home baked goodies.
the Christmas cake!

Following lunch, Gail Nishimura treated us with her challenging holiday games. I’m still figuring out whether I needed to pass the candy cane to the right or left? Next year, I need to remember to review my Christmas carols.

Santa made his grand appearance after the singing of songs with Ed Goto. Children were treated to candy sweets and Christmas gifts with a lot of “Ho Ho Hos”! It’s not Christmas without Santa and his elves (AKA Curtis Sakamoto and sons, Jason & Justin).

No one went home empty handed. During lunch and following our Santa visit, Ann called out everyone’s name to pick-up a grab bag gift, many generously donated by Carol and Mike Sullivan and much appreciated. In addition to the grab bag, several lucky people received donated gift cards before the ending of the event. If you want to join in the fun, plan to attend next year’s event. It will be posted on the 442nd Sons & Daughters website sometime in November 2017.
snowman drawing game
some of our Christmas party prize winners

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Nov. 5, 2016 Deadline for the Dec. 5 WWII Nisei Veterans Tribute Luncheon

Aloha,
Deadline to Register & Pay for December 5, WWII AJA Veterans Tribute Luncheon is November 5, next week Saturday. This is part of the Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary commemoration events.

To attend the December 5, Monday WWII Nisei Veterans Tribute Luncheon at the Hawaii Convention Center and to sit with other Sons and Daughters, please send payment of $75.00 for each person, payable to:

Sons and Daughters of 442 RCT
Attn: Shirley
933 Wiliwili Street
Honolulu, HI 96826

If you wish to sit with your father’s/grandfather’s chapter, please call Claire Mitani, 442 Veterans Club secretary at (808) 949-7997 to register with the 442nd Veterans Club and mail your $75 per person check payable to:

442nd Veterans Club
933 Wiliwili Street
Honolulu, HI 96826

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11th Annual Joint Memorial Service, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016

Veterans, Sons & Daughters, Granddaughters and Grandsons and Family and Friends –

The 11th Annual Joint Memorial Service (JMS) which is open to the public was held on Sunday, September 25, 2016, at 10 am at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The JMS is held to honor the Japanese American Soldiers who served in WWII, specifically, those in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. Thirty-three thousand Japanese Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII and 800 lost their lives fighting for this country, which had initially classified them as “enemy aliens.” The wartime service of the Nisei Veterans was instrumental in helping to shift the racial mood of the country toward Japanese Americans and lay the groundwork for the admission of Hawaii to the Union. Their exemplary service also opened the doors of social, economic and political opportunity for future generations.
Mr. Matt Matsunaga, son of the late Congressman and U.S. Senator, Spark Matsunaga, will be the keynote speaker at this event. The Royal Hawaiian Band will provide musical entertainment.

Thank you to All who joined Us on Sunday, September 25.

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Photos from Memorial Day services, 2016

442nd RCT Veterans and Sons & Daughters of the 442nd RCT took part again this year in Memorial Day services to honor and remember those who sacrificed for our country.

 

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Photos of the 442nd RCT 73rd Anniversary Banquet held on April 10, 2016 (3 of 3)

These are candids and a mix of the shots at this year’s banquet.

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Photos from the 442nd RCT 73rd Anniversary Banquet held on April 10, 2016 (2 of 3)

These are group photos.

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Photos from the 442nd RCT 73rd Anniversary Banquet held on April 10, 2016 (1 of 3)

Thank you to all the photographers of the 442 S&D and friends.

This is the first of series of post with photographs – of a great banquet in honor of our fathers, uncles, grandfathers, heroes.

 

1 - program 2 - favors (534x800)

 

 

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2015 442 S&D’s Family Christmas Party

A good time was had at the Family Christmas Party held in December by over a hundred 442 Sons & Daughters, members and their families and friends, including several of our cherished 442 veterans. Thank you to Ann Kabasawa for the planning and organizing, her gang of volunteers for setup, cleanup, donations, entertainment, and Santa and helpers. And thank you Sons and Daughters and S&D members and your families for making it a fun event!

Hope you enjoy the selection of photos below taken by Clyde and by Pat.

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Halloween Brunch

Halloween brunch flyer-082715

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