Mornings are not emotion-choked events for me, but today was different. It began as usual, chowing down on breakfast while clicking away at the spam that piled into my email inbox overnight — delete, delete, delete.
Suddenly my finger paused and asked me to look again. An email to the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd RCT was in my spam inbox. Something about the sender’s address and the subject line tripped a breaker in my head. So I paused and looked again, and decided this was not spam. It told a short story and invited me to click on a link to view a video. Clicking on links in emails from strangers is a major no-no in the wild, wild Internet world. But the story was too compelling, and so I clicked the link.
Soon there were tears rolling down my cheeks, tears of sadness from memories invoked, tears of gratitude for the beautiful gift from the young and old who made this video for us, tears of joy for the reassurance that the sacrifices of our fathers/grandfathers/uncles/cousins will not drift away in the winds of time and be lost forever.
Many will view and appreciate the video — few will experience the deeply felt emotions that soon well up as the video progresses. You are most probably among those few. Here’s the story that introduces the video, in the words of the organizer of the project that produced the video.
Mahalo nui, Bill Wright, Education Chairman, Sons & Daughters of the 442nd RCT of Hawaii
My name is Marion Kieffer Rys, organizer and coordinator of the project, “Memories and Perspective,” at L’Accueil de la Vologne, the retirement home in Granges-Aumontzey, situated 10 km from Bruyères and 11 km from Biffontaine in the Vosges Mountains of France.
Today we would like to introduce you to Aloha, a song written and created by the residents of our retirement home and the 4th and 5th grade elementary school students from our town, Biffontaine, and La Chapelle-devant-Bruyères. This grassroots project began in our retirement home, thanks to the three residents who visited Hawaii in 1976 to celebrate the Sister City relationship between Bruyères and Honolulu.
Through the residents of our retirement home, I learned what had happened during World War II, the liberation of Bruyères and Biffontaine by the Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland USA. I was intrigued by the story, which is becoming unknown to the general public. I felt that it was absolutely needed to give value locally to honoring the Japanese American soldiers. This extraordinary history needed to be revived for the majority of our population. It was important to highlight our residents’ knowledge and transmit directly to the younger generations, from kindergarten to high school.
Everyone in the retirement home was involved in the project, as well as professionals in education, and many children participated and were inspired. The project involved many aspects, such as a historical exhibition on the liberation of Bruyères and the Battle of Biffontaine, elders visiting the local schools to transmit their knowledge on the Japanese Americans during the war, a Hawaiian-inspired luncheon, conferences, and storytelling. These activities can be seen in the video.
The final part of the project was the creation of the song Aloha under the supervision of musician Jack Simard and arrangement by Yannic Villenave.
As the ending of the project, it was very important for us to be able to creatively express gratitude to the Japanese American soldiers.
In the first part of the song Lucette Lievaux explains what the word Aloha means, and speaks about the Japanese American soldiers and how we should never forget them. She did this spontaneously, without writing. The words came naturally because her encounter with the Japanese American soldiers and visiting Hawaii have always been important to her.
The first spoken verse was written and read by Jacqueline Gérard, who was in Bruyères during the war when she was a child. She wrote this passage based on her own experiences, hiding in the basement feeling scared, and being liberated by the Japanese American soldiers. She is very thankful toward Japanese Americans and still thinks of them with fond memories.
We would like to share our Aloha through this video as a symbol of our appreciation.
I am aware that perhaps certain elements may not seem to correspond to the historical facts or show a lack of understanding toward the event. We did our best to be informed locally by the Association de Chemin de la Paix in Bruyères.
This song represents our deep respect to the Japanese American soldiers and what today’s children imagine they went through.
We would love this video to be shared with veterans and their families. Please kindly share the link with them.
And, if it is not too much to ask, we would be very happy to hear from you and the people who watch the video, to learn your impressions of the song and the video. This will encourage the residents in the retirement home, the children who wrote the song, and the professionals who worked on the projects.
Thank you for your kind attention and I hope to hear from you.
Mahalo nui loa,
Marion Kieffer Rys
From the Sons & Daughters: Our deep gratitude to Marion Kieffer Rys for this wonderful reminder of the special relationship between the people of the Bruyères region and Hawaii, which has its foundation in the battles by the 442nd RCT to liberate the towns and villages of the Vosges nearly 78 years ago in October-November 1944.
Please share this information with your family, friends, and associates.
We wish to reciprocate to our brothers and sisters in the Bruyères region — please also send a note of appreciation and thanks for their Aloha to the veterans, their families, and all the citizens of Hawaii for the spirit of Aloha that guides our everyday lives.
The email address to send your note is:
Please also copy us at: