First Prize, Essay, High School

Javier Herrera

Mt. Carmel High School, San Diego

Junior (2016-17 Academic School Year)

Japanese American WWII veterans remind us of dark times in our nation’s history. But they are also beacons of light and inspiration. The racism, the prejudice, the discrimination, the segregation. All of which they suffered, they endured, they persevered through.

And yet, these veterans continued to fight for our country, to fight for our freedom. They proved their ultimate loyalty to the US and exhibited the best example of patriotism to the country. But the U.S. did not do the same. During WWII, this country stripped these soldiers of their civil rights, which they rightfully owned. The **United** States of America took their businesses away, took their livelihood away, took their homes away.

History would say that pejorative actions beget negative reactions. History proved to be wrong here. These Japanese Americans continued to show their loyalty to the U.S., to the country that stripped them of their rights and abandoned them because of an event only tangential by race.

It makes sense to not support a country that is stripping your fellow friends and family of their livelihood and rights. It makes sense to revolt against this country, to cause trouble, to create an insurrection or uprising. It does not make sense to continue to fight for this country, one that expects loyalty but does not offer it in return. It does not make sense to decide to fight for this country after all it has done against your fellow peers.

But these Japanese Americans, these WWII veterans, they do not fit in a time of prejudice, discrimination, and racism. They do not make sense in this time, because making sense, being common, and submitting to the norms would be a defeat for them and all others suffering.

These veterans battled both at home and abroad. Abroad, they battled for the safety and security of the U.S., the safety of its citizens, the same citizens that disrespected and mistreated them. They fought for their rights, while lacking their own. At home, they fought for respect, for equality, for common decency. Fighting for a country that does not fight for you speaks volume about character. It speaks volume about one’s values, ethics, morals, and life.

At a time like this, with rampant racism and discrimination ongoing toward the Japanese and many other races, these Japanese American WWII veterans decided to sail against the current. They decided to sail against the current, in dangerous territory, fighting frightening waves. They decided to risk their lives to light the beacon that brings enlightenment to others. An enlightenment that erases prejudice and racism.

This beacon is still lit today, and the surviving Japanese American WWII veterans serve as a role model of ultimate bravery, loyalty, and perseverance. They remind us of the dark times of when the U.S. was not exactly the land of the free. But they show us change is possible, through their brave actions and persistent commitment to the cause.


My name is Javier Herrera and I’m about to enter 12th grade of high school. I have a passion for math and the sciences, and in my free time, I like to play video games and exercise. Coming from a military family, I have an underlying appreciation for soldiers who have sacrificed for the safety of others. This is why I decided to enter the contest: in order to show gratitude for the Nisei soldier story.

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