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During WWII, my grandfather and his family were forcibly removed from their home in San Francisco and sent to the internment camps. A life surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers in the middle of the desert was certainly not the image of “freedom” his parents envisioned when they immigrated from Japan. Nonetheless, my grandfather, who was born and raised in the United States, never let go of the great American ideal of freedom.
He enlisted in the Army and served as an interpreter and translator in the Military Intelligence Service. To him, this was an act of love for his family, his country and the generations of Japanese Americans yet to come.
Photographs like this help keep the flame of the Japanese American WWII veteran story alive so that it can be passed down to future generations. This piece captures the love and honor that inspired thousands of Nisei during the war.
My grandfather, now 92 years old, passes down this golden symbol of the sacrifices and rewards of his life as a Japanese American. The Congressional Gold Medal, once placed around his neck by a U.S. senator, is a poignant symbol of the Nisei and their valiant efforts in winning the war and preserving the peace for all Americans.
His youngest grandson looks up at him with pride and admiration, knowing on some level that the richness of his life is a gift from all the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei that came before him. Okage sama de.
The subjects of this picture are Koji Ozawa, my Nisei grandfather, and my youngest brother Cevan Ozawa Burns, a Yonsei.
Aislinn is pursuing a global studies degree and has spent time in Berlin studying entrepreneurship, Washington, D.C. interning on a Robert Matsui Fellowship, and in France studying landscape architecture.
She entered the contest to bind her future to her grandfather’s past and honor the sacrifices he made during World War II. Aislinn is inspired by the personal honor, quiet sacrifice and loyalty to family and country of the Nisei soldier story…even a country that fell dismayingly short of its ideals in the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
To see more winning entries from Go For Broke National Education Center’s 2018 High School and College/University Essay, Performance and Visual Arts Contest, visit www.goforbroke.org.