Terry Shima receives the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Obama in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 15. (White House video image)

Rafu wire and staff reports

WASHINGTON — Terry Shima of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) was among 18 people who received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, at the White House on Friday.

President Barack Obama described the recipients as “extraordinary men and women who have gone above and beyond for their country and for their fellow citizens — often without fanfare; often with not a lot of attention; very rarely for any profit. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, because you want to give back. And today, we honor you. We celebrate you. And, most of all, we have a chance to say thank you. Because all of you are what the rest of us aspire to be.”

In presenting the medal to Shima, Obama said, “During World War II, Terry Shima served in the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most decorated unit of its size in American history. Responsible for securing the 442nd’s legacy, Terry ensured that returning heroes received a welcome befitting their service and sacrifice.

“As the executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association (2004-2012), he committed himself to preserving the stories of servicemembers who fought and bled overseas, even while many of their families were relocated to internment camps at home.  For strengthening the sacred trust between America and its veterans, the United States honors Terry T. Shima.”

Shima, 90, of Gaithersburg, Md., was born and raised in Laupahoehoe, Hawaii and served in the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit comprised of Japanese Americans, which became one of the most decorated units of its size in American history.

His brother Hiroshi Shima of Hilo, Hawaii, son Michael Shima of Philadelphia, Pa., daughter Eileen Roulier and son-in-law Richard Roulier of Potomac, Md., traveled to the White House to view the ceremony.

When asked what his reactions were in receiving this award, Shima said, “In a word, awesome. There are others far more deserving to receive this medal than I. However, having been designated, I accept this award on behalf of my family, who has given me their total support.”

“I am so proud of my father,” said Eileen Roulier. “Our family sees how deeply he cares and how hard he works to tell the Japanese American story, but he certainly never expected this medal. It’s an incredible gift of recognition. I believe in his heart he shares this honor, completely and thoroughly, with my mother, who supported him throughout their 65 years of marriage. What an amazing team. I am profoundly grateful for the inspiration and guidance they’ve given me over the years.”

“I accept this medal on behalf of the volunteers at the Japanese American Veterans Association and for the men who fought in Europe and the Pacific, including my older brother, Hideichi Shimabukuro, to settle the question of loyalty once and for all and to help level the playing field for minorities,” said Shima. “I also accept this medal for the over 800 men we left on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, and for the post-World War II Japanese American men and women who competed with the best of the best to build America’s greatness.”

Gerald Yamada, president of JAVA, praised Shima’s service. “This award recognizes Terry’s tireless efforts as a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, as executive director, and now as the chairperson of our Education and Public Outreach Committee to preserve the legacy of the contributions of the World War II Nisei soldiers. Terry brings honor to all of us.”

“Given all the work, time, dedication and effort that Terry has expended over all these years on behalf of the veterans and the total community, there is no one who is more deserving of this recognition,” said former Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta. “I know that the thousands of Japanese American veterans who served in World War II and those who ultimately made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of all of us are really smiling and saying ‘Well done, Terry, and thanks a million!’”

Newtown Honorees

Family members of the six adults killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting attended the ceremony to receive the medal on behalf of their fallen loved ones.

One by one, Obama read the names of the six educators, saying they had no idea when they woke up on a chilly December morning of the sacrifice they would soon make for their communities.

“They could have focused on their own safety, on their own well-being. But they didn’t,” Obama said. “They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care.”

Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach are believed to have lunged, unarmed, at the gunman to try to stop him. Teacher Victoria Soto reportedly hid children in a closet. Lauren Rousseau read to her students as the gunman invaded the school, doing her best to keep them calm. Rachel D’Avino and Anne Marie Murphy were said to have wrapped their arms around the children as chaos ensued.

Also among the honorees was Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a renowned pediatrician who developed a leading behavioral test for newborns. He created the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, which hospitals across the country use to detect physical and neurological abnormalities.

Another medal went to former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford, a volunteerism advocate who advised Martin Luther King Jr., helped form the Peace Corps program and was a leader in higher education.

Obama credited honoree Jeanne Manford with inspiring a movement. In the 1970s Manford launched a campaign for tolerance for gays and lesbians after her son, Morty, was assaulted at a gay rights demonstration. She created a support group that evolved into Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national organization that now has more than 350 chapters. Manford’s daughter accepted the award on behalf of her late mother.

The other recipients were:

Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and founder of Veterans Farm, which helps teach veterans of all ages how to make a living from and find healing in the land;

Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing and Caring Hands, which has served as a safety net to those in the Minneapolis area;

Michael Dorman, founder and executive director of Military Missions in Action, a North Carolina-based non-profit that helps veterans with disabilities achieve independent living;

Maria Gomez, founder of Mary’s Center, which builds better futures through the delivery of health care, family literacy and job training;

Pamela Green Jackson, founder and CEO of the Youth Becoming Healthy Project, a non-profit organization committed to reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity;

Janice Jackson, creator and program director of Women Embracing Abilities Now, a nonprofit mentoring organization servicing women and young ladies with disabilities;

Patience Lehrman, an immigrant from Cameroon and national director of Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders), an immigrant integration initiative at the Intergenerational Center of Temple University.

Billy Mills, co-founder and spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that supports cultural programs and provides health and housing assistance for Native American communities.

Established in 1969, the Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to service in their own community or in communities farther from home; who have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts; whose service relates to a long-term or persistent problem; and whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.

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