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vets Veterans’ wartime saga overflows the Senda Gallery

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 12:45 am

LIHU‘E — One is 97 years old and two are 92 years old, but each vividly remember the days leading up to World War II and their exploits in the war.

Kazuma “Monty” Nishiie, 97, a veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion, Turk Tokita, 92, of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Jiro Yukimura, 92, of the Military Intelligence Service were introduced by Pamela Varma Brown, author of “Kaua‘i Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kaua‘i’s People.”

The trio spoke Wednesday to a standing room only crowd in the Kaua‘i Museum’s Senda Gallery.

In the days surrounding the bombing of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Japanese residents were declared the enemy and not to be trusted.

Yukimura said he was a student at the University of Hawai‘i, living in the dormitory because he was an outer island student.

“After the bombing, we went out to volunteer because we had Jr. ROTC training,” Yukimura said. “At first, they had us guarding potential targets, but after a few days, the draft board classified Japanese as 4C, or enemy aliens. We were dismissed.”

Despite this, Japanese Americans turned out to serve in the military and made history with the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.

Tokita earned one of his Purple Hearts in France and spoke about how the 442nd freed the town of Bruyeres from the Nazis, succeeding where previous units had tried, but were not successful.

In 2010 the United States government apologized and presented Japanese American veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony held in Washington, D.C.

“They finally realized we are American citizens,” Jiro said.

Janice Bond listened to the group speak, but lamented the fact she had run out of red, white and blue lei to present the veterans.

“I heard the veterans were going to be here so I came to listen to their stories,” said Jimmy Sone, who squeezed in between the standing room only crowd. “It’s not every day you get to hear what they went through.”

Brown’s talk story session is part of the Kaua‘i Museum’s author series, which started earlier in the month with the appearance of Kapa‘a High School graduate and author Kahu Elithe Kahn, who hosted a workshop on breath work.

Brown is scheduled to make appearances at the Kaua‘i Museum on Feb. 13 and 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Originally, the museum was going to host a talk story session with the veterans in the outdoor courtyard but had to move the event indoors because crews were setting up for the sold-out Pa‘ina Friday, which celebrates the coming Chinese New Year, according to Melissa Paterson of the Kaua‘i Museum.

Jane Gray, the Kaua‘i Museum director, said the public is welcome to celebrate the Chinese New Year Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during ‘Ohana Day where the normal museum entrance fee is waived for kama‘aina.

“This is a good opportunity to celebrate Chinese cultural traditions in observance of the Chinese New Year,” said La‘amea Almeida, the museum’s educational outreach officer. “We’ll have Chinese fortune telling, tai chi and martial arts demonstrations, some Chinese candies and foods and narcissus plants, which were grown by Chris Faye, the museum’s curator.”

In addition to the event, visitors may also take in the Chinese culture exhibit in the main and mezzanine Asian galleries.

Visitors may also ask for good fortune in the Year of the Snake by making the traditional monetary gift to the gods by “feeding the dragon” set up beneath the Chinese lion in the main gallery.

Located at 4428 Rice Street, the Kaua‘i Museum is celebrating its 53rd year with an extensive calendar of events including the author series.

It is open daily and more information can be found by visiting www.kauaimuseum.org or by calling 245-6931.

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