kevin koyamaBy KEVIN KOYAMA, Northeastern University, Boston

Second Prize, Essay, College/University

A person may feel confident they understand the military after researching hundreds of books and films. But they can’t completely understand. Words and pictures could never fully convey the military experiences.

After talking with and listening to Grandpa Minamide, my cousin’s grandpa, I learned an important lesson: we are different, but the same.

Growing up, I was ignorant to the fact that Akira Minamide served in the 442nd RCT, L Company. To me, he was just “Grandpa Minamide.” He treated me like his “real” grandchildren and often took care of my sister and me. But when I decided to serve in the military, his overall attitude changed. I could tell he was proud, but he was never overt about it like my other relatives. He was quiet, but his sincerity was the strongest.

It was my older sister who finally told me, “Of course he’s proud of you; he was in the 442nd.”

After my first deployment, he finally approached me during one of our Christmas family gatherings. We talked about our training and some of our experiences. I had never heard him talk about any of his service. My aunt told me later, “I have never heard my dad talk about any of that. Thank you.”

Two thoughts went through my head: Why me? Why now? As we talked about our experiences, I was amazed at some of the comments he made. I will never forget hearing his voice when he said, “Oh, wow. They still do that, huh?” I remember thinking, “What do you mean they still do that?” There was a gap between our generations, but the training was similar. The training mindset was different, but the same.

Recently listening to his 442nd experiences online, I realized more commonalities in our experiences. Personally, I could tell you the sound of a mortar round or a RPG as it flies past your head, or how scared I felt as the building I was in got hit. In an interview, Grandpa Minamide talked about the feeling of lying in a hole and thinking it was not deep enough to protect him from the flying shrapnel.

He knew my situation and was the only family member who could truly understand. I could also tell you what it felt like to put my life in someone else’s hands; Grandpa Minamide had also lived it. War experiences were different, but the same.

In response to: Why me? Why now? It was because I had lived it. I had experienced it. I was the only family member who could understand him. Grandpa Minamide served in Europe. I served in the Middle East. Even though they were two different wars, there were similar experiences of not knowing if you’re coming home safely. But more importantly, it felt as if he were passing a message of assurance to me, “We are of different generations and wars. But don’t worry. I’ve been there. I understand. We survived. I am here for you. We are the same.”

I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and am pursuing my Masters in Business Administration and Masters of Science in Finance from Northeastern University. I am also a Marine Corps officer who has deployed throughout the globe — seeing the best and worst of people. Needless to say, my interests and respect for the 100/442/MIS have grown with my interactions with my cousins’ grandpa and my personal experiences. By entering this contest, I had hoped to honor him, those who have served, and those who continue to serve our country.

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