Thank you to Judge Thomas K. Kaulukukui, Jr. for allowing us to post the speech he gave at the 100th Infantry Battalion’s 70th Anniversary Banquet on July 8, 2012 at the Honolulu Country Club.
Good Morning to All.
I humbly offer all honor and respect to the Great Spirit who has made this day and who has given us a humble part in it; and to the sands of your birth, wherever that may be; to the memory of our ancestors; to the elders who are present; and to the leaders and other guests in attendance; and most of all, I bow in respect to the veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, and to their descendants and other family members here today, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the 100th Battalion.
I was invited to offer my thoughts on the contributions of the 100th Battalion to the community. I was born in 1945, so I am a member of the “baby boomer” generation—the generation after the 100th Battalion veterans. This is the vantage point of my perspective. Most of you already know the specifics of some or most of the contributions of these veterans, but I humbly offer my own brief but broad perspectives on this topic. I have entitled my remarks “The Essence (S-sense) of the 100th Battalion’s Contributions to the Community.” I say “S-sense” because I will speak of 3 Ss.
The first S stands, of course, for SACRIFICE, which is the 100th Battalion’s gift to the nation. In battle, these men sacrificed their youth, their innocence, and their humanity. In some cases, they sacrificed their sanity, their limbs, and even their lives, all for a great cause. They not only saved the free world, but also taught the nation lessons about patriotism, freedom and equality. And they did it through their personal sacrifices. You know, sometimes, in order to gain something that is worth having, it is necessary to give up everything else. All gave some, and some gave all.
Our nation is America, born of an armed revolution by those who rebelled against their English king, declared their independence, and who then created the greatest democracy in the modern world. One of the strengths of democracy is that the majority rules, which works well with enlightened leadership and real equality. One of the weaknesses of a democracy is that the majority rules, which doesn’t work so well when the majority unfairly deprives the minority of equality and liberty. For example, democracy can be two lions and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. The vote may be democratic, but the lamb is a minority that has real no recourse.
We all know what happened to Japanese Americans before and during WWII. Japanese Americans did not revolt against the unjust discrimination of the nation. They didn’t and they weren’t going to, for they must have hoped and trusted that their adopted nation would eventually realize the great injustice, and that the best values of democracy would prevail. But would that have happened without the sacrifice of men like those of the 100th Infantry Battalion? These men rewrote the Bill of Rights in their own blood, made America take notice, and inspired changes that resulted in real freedom and real equality.
My friend Bob Ozaki once asked a member of the Wine Gang, “Why did you guys fight like that?” The answer was, “Because we had to die to prove ourselves.” As young as they were, these men who were considered 2nd class citizens knew that some of them had to die in the flower of their youth in war on foreign soil, so that their comrades and countryman –including us—can live to a ripe old age in peace and equality in our own country. How great indeed was that sacrifice! What a gift to the nation, and to world!
Another of their contributions—the 2nd S– is SERVICE. The motto of Club 100 is “For Continuing Service.” Someone said that “Service is the rent we pay for our room on earth.” And in addition to their military service, the men of the 100th Battalion have “paid their rent” by contributing for decades to the community, through their dedicated service. Their service is after the war is unique. In my experience, when combat veterans return from war, they just want to be left alone. Their thoughts turn inward, as they struggle to reintegrate themselves into civilized society. The last thing on their minds is to give more service to others. If fact, many rightfully believe that the country owes them.
But the 100th Battalion veterans were unique because they had so many things in common. They were all part of a class of American society who suffered discrimination. They had a common purpose to prove themselves. They trained together, they fought together, and some died together. Many stayed together in Club 100 after the war, and they some are still together. All of these factors have combined to create and maintain a special group of veterans whose continuing service to the community consists not only the good works themselves, but also the example they have set by their conduct. The military and the nation should adopt their model for veterans’ post-war community service. Continuing service has been more than just their motto. It is their way of life.
The third great contribution—the third S—is their STORY. This is commonly referred to by such words as “legacy” or “lore” or “history” or “tradition.” But libraries are full of unread books of legacy, lore, history and tradition. That’s why I use the word “Story.”
A real story is one that is that is told and retold. It is told and retold because it is timeless, relevant, educational, and memorable. So, it is passed on from generation to generation. The lore of the 100th Infantry Battalion has all of the latter characteristics, but to endure, it must be told and retold by succeeding generations. No one knows this better than you.
Their story is a gift to us, because their story will not be told by them. If it is to be told at all, it must be by us. It is a story that they want preserved and told not for themselves, but so that succeeding generations will know and understand the values for which their young comrades sacrificed their lives. How do I know? I have asked some of them, and their answers are consistent in this regard. And I know because I am a veteran, and I believe that all veterans feel the same way about their own story, and have always felt this way, throughout history, as long as wars have been fought. It’s not about us who survived. It’s about those who died. They say to us, in the words of the poet Archibald McLeish, “We give you our deaths. Give them meaning.”
So it is our challenge—and especially a challenge for the descendants—to preserve and to tell their story well for future generations. There is pressure upon the descendants of these veterans to carry this burden, but as president John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “The pressures of life are not distributed by choice. The torch has been passed to a new generation.”
I have had an opportunity to meet with the current leadership of the veterans and legacy organizations of the 100th Battalion. I have been uniformly impressed by the character, competency, and commitment of all those involved in the leadership of these organizations. Therein lies the potential for success in preserving and retelling the story of these brave men. But as with any great and challenging endeavor involving strong and dedicated leadership, there is the potential for strong, disparate and sometimes divergent opinions on how best to preserve and publicize the legacy of these veterans.
There are lessons for us all in the way these men willingly subordinated their many diverse opinions, feelings, and emotions about their unfair treatment, and yet sacrificed their personal views to achieve a greater goal. We can also learn much from the way they have united in order to progress so that they can serve well their constituents and communities. How well we –the succeeding generations—eventually serve them and serve our communities, is our story, and it is one that is yet to be written.
On this special occasion, I congratulate the leaders of these groups for organizing this event. I give my sincere best wishes to all friends and family members in attendance. And I offer a special salute to all the members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, past and present. I wish you all good luck, good health and Godspeed.
© Thomas K. Kaulukukui, Jr.
All Rights Reserved