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Memorial Day service honors Japanese-American soldiers

June 1, 2011

All those who served their country were remembered in a moving ceremony Monday attended by nearly 500 people.

At the end of the service, a new wall of flowers graced the Walk of Honor at

Idlewilde, where one group of veterans, the Japanese-Americans of the Gorge, received a long-overdue honor: a marble stone with 140 names.

"It was a healing moment, and an important thing for this whole county," said Shig Imai of Hood River, who helped in the unveiling of the memorial.

The memorial, honoring Japanese-Americans veterans living and deceased, will remain on display through Wednesday and then be placed in storage while the entire Walk of Honor is renovated and expanded this summer.

In his keynote address, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden thanked the American Legion and Idlewilde for inviting him to speak, saying, "This brings us together today to dedicate this monument and to begin healing a very old wound.

"It's hard to believe as we gather on a cool Memorial Day morning in the year 2011 that less than 70 years ago our Valley was ripped apart by the heat of discriminatory passions of war," said Walden, a Hood River native, giving credit to American Legion chaplain Denny Leonard and Idlewilde sexton Bob Huskey for their "leadership and determination."

"As Japanese-Americans fought courageously in far-off lands and seas against the gathered forces of oppression, here at home their loved ones were rounded up and sent away to internment camps … their homes destroyed, their land taken away or turned over to property caretakers.

"Abhorrently, the names of 16 Japanese-Americans who had selflessly served in the cause of freedom were stripped from the sacred wall erected by the American Legion at the courthouse to forever honor their bravery and service.

"This is not a proud chapter in the history of the Hood River Valley. And I know it is an agonizing chapter that some would just as soon not reopen. But a wound as deep as this one cannot heal if it is not appropriately treated. And today, we get about that healing process to the best of our ability.

"Nothing we can say today can right the wrongs of the past but hopefully, our acknowledgement of those wrongs can help us, and those to come, from allowing such actions to ever occur again."

"Today, all across the country, Americans are gathered in public spaces, just like this, to recognize and remember ALL the men and women, ALL Americans of every size, color and creed, who sacrificed so much for so many.

(Go to the Hood River News website, www.hoodrivernews.com, for Walden's full address.)

Many residents stayed to talk around the Japanese-American monument.

"It is a good thing for everyone. It was a wonderful service today and I'm really glad I came," said Mary Hamada of Hood River. "I do think this can be a healing place - for both sides."

Among those enjoying the impromptu reunion was Linda Tamura of Lake Oswego, a Pine Grove native and graduate of Wy'east High School in Odell. Tamura, author of the book "Hood River Issei," read aloud all 140 names during the ceremony.

Mary Hamada's husband, Noboru, is listed on the stone, one of five Hamadas so honored; Tamura noted that there are six families with three names, eight with five names and one family - Takasumi - with six names. See the full list on page A8.

"I think it's really great. It's a really welcome thing," said Ken Morikado of Pine Grove, who served in the Army in the 1970s and whose name is on the stone. His family was interned in Colorado, after first being taken to a southern California racetrack, where Morikado was literally "born in a barn" in 1942.

"I'm fortunate I lived to see it. A lot of people did not," said Imai, a longtime orchardist in Dee who worked closely with Huskey and Leonard to contact and interview families represented on the memorial.

"It's too bad this could not have happened 15 or 20 years ago, but it's good we honor those memories now," Imai said.

Huskey began the program welcoming the audience on behalf of the Memorial Day Veterans Service Council, made up of Idlewilde Cemetery, American Legion Post 22, the National Guard and Anderson's Tribute Center. Leonard followed with the invocation. A "Taps" salute was played by Emelia McPherson and the Hood River Valley High School band performed several songs.

Huskey and Leonard, with help from Legion Post Commander Roy Elliott, presented a flag to Hood River Adult Center board president Paul Zastrow, to be flown over that facility.

Dana Branson sang, accompanied by David Johnson, and led the crowd in "God Bless America," and Rita Howard read the poem "In Flanders Field," by John McCrae.

Huskey said, "Over the past five years, Idlewilde Cemetery and our board of directors have been developing new projects that breathe life into the county's largest graveyard.

"Idlewilde and its board of directors have also focused on bringing back a more formalized Memorial Day ceremony to honor all those who have served their country in the Armed Forces. We are determined not to let the meaning of this holiday be minimized or lost altogether," Huskey said.

(Next year's Memorial Day event will be held at the same place, but the plaza will be greatly changed: Work begins this summer to double the size of the memorial, to create "a stage" for Memorial Day and many other events.)

The following groups presented flowers:

American Legion Post 22 and Auxiliary; Hazel Rebekah Lodge 156; Mid-Columbia Japanese-American Citizens League, in memory of Ken Tamura, presented by his son, Trevor; Hood River Lions; Odell Lions; Hood River Masonic Lodge; Hood River Soroptimist; Hood River Chamber of Commerce; Hood River Elks Lodge 1507; Lyle Colton, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1479 and Auxiliary; Delta Kappa; Hood River Valley Boy Scouts; Hood River Rotary Club; Celilo Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution; Jack and Debbie Trumbull of Anderson's Tribute Center (presented by Alex Carlson); Hood River County Republican Central Committee and former Military Women of the Armed Services, presented by Josie Roberts.

Among those Huskey thanked were Maija Yasui, whose family connections and friendships in the valley opened many doors to Huskey, and Linda Guertin for helping with the monument display. He also thanked the American Legion Post 22 Auxiliary for the floral pieces decorating the "Walk of Honor," specifically Anita Hasegawa, Louise Hoffman, Dorothy Odell, Ann Mays, Judy Osborn and Mildred Woods.

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