MORGAN HILL — When Lawson Sakai, a World War II veteran, received a call from the Morgan Hill Independence Day Parade chairman and was asked to be grand marshal, he was delighted and honored to represent all World War II veterans.

Lawson Sakai then and now.
Lawson Sakai then and now.

This Fourth of July parade was one of the largest in the region, featuring 140 entries, including over 20 floats and eight marching bands, and attracting over 50,000 watchers.

An editorial in Morgan Hill Life stated: “Sakai’s story is a demonstration of all that is the best about the American character.”

Sakai volunteered for the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943 and fought in battles that included rescue of the Texas “Lost Battalion.” Wounded four times, he was awarded two Bronze Star medals and recently the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Sakai rode in a World War II-era jeep completely restored and authentically configured to represent the combat vehicle used by the 442nd. It belonged to Ben Edes, a Morgan Hill resident.

As Sakai’s jeep passed by, parade watchers warmly and enthusiastically greeted him by calling out his name and with applause. The hour-and-a-half ride was one of the proudest moments in his life. Labeled an “enemy alien” after Pearl Harbor, Sakai fought to prove his loyalty to his country. His service epitomized true patriotism and on July 4, 2014, he was rewarded with recognition unimaginable until recent decades.

Another Morgan Hill Nisei, Paul Yokoi, also a veteran of the 442nd, was similarly honored in 1988.

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