High school students clean up the Japanese American National War Memorial Court last Saturday as part of the third annual “Spit and Polish” event. (Photo by BACON SAKATANI)

Last Saturday, 18 high school volunteers gathered at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center to clean, scrub and polish the court in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend services.

The Memorial Court is the only place in the country dedicated to the memory of the more than 1,200 Japanese Americans who gave their lives in over a century of service to America.

Jim Yamashita, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, said that it makes him happy that young people are willing to help honor these heroes by restoring the court to a pristine condition. “We must never forget those who made the supreme sacrifice.”

The volunteers were:

From Torrance North High – Allison Vo, Trevor Lee, Cory Hamada, Andrew Nguyen, Marichris De La Merced, David Hoang, Kelly Dekitani, Lauren Sullivan, Megan Ko, Christine Choi and Ela Chavarria. All are members of the J’s & V’s, a club dedicated to community service.

From VFW Post 3670 Youth Group – Kyle Kotani, Nick Ozawa, Isaac Kim and Ryan Kawahara.
From Venice Buddhist Temple Junior YBA – Tyson Amano, Derek Amano, Dustin Noriyuki and Katie Rosengrant.

The cleaning was done in record time under the supervision of Javier Ixta of the JACCC. Following the morning of hard work was a pizza lunch in the JACCC building. During lunch, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam shared stories and feelings with the young volunteers and answered questions.

Yamashita spoke of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd and the Military Intelligence Service to recognize their extraordinary service to America.

Korean War veteran Thomi Yamamoto told of an ambush that was aborted due to a machine gun frozen so solid that it would not fire — and 50 years later meeting and befriending a former Chinese soldier who would have been the victim of that ambush.

“Mistaken identity” was an occupational hazard for all Asian American soldiers in Vietnam, said David Miyoshi, who was a Marine Corps officer there.

Other veterans participating were Paul Ono, Bacon Sakatani, Sam Shimoguchi and Nori Uyematsu  from the Korean War era and Dennis Maruki, Chris Segawa, Dan Nakagiri, Jim Masaki and Ken Hayashi from the Vietnam era. Among the mementos given to the volunteers were copies of “Echoes of Silence” and other educational DVDs prepared by Yamashita and the new Memorial Court Pin designed by Ron Imada.

The veterans also presented Lisa Kawakami, the president of the J’s & V’s, with a framed picture of the Memorial Court in appreciation for her organizing the Torrance volunteers since Spit & Polish I. She was not able to attend as she was taking college placement exams.

All the veterans expressed their thanks to the young volunteers for their participation; to the family members and others adults who provided transportation and support; and to Ray and Susan Uyemura for helping with the name tags.

Memorial Day services will be held at the JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo, on Saturday, May 26, at 11 a.m.

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