By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.

I used to get Memorial Day confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day was the three-day weekend at the end of May that marked the beginning of summer. It generally meant a golf outing with Kokusai Golf Club.

Veterans Day, on the other hand, was just a one-day holiday where I’d watch war movies like “Go For Broke.” (The original 1951 version starring Van Johnson, Lane Nakano and Henry Nakamura)

To be honest, I didn’t actually know very much about the history of Memorial Day. So I looked it up. Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds they sustained during battle in the service of their country. Veterans Day, observed on Nov. 11 every year, honors everyone who has served in the military regardless of whether they served during wartime or not.

So, where did Memorial Day come from? Memorial Day began with an idea from Gen. John Logan, as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. The first celebration on May 30, 1868, was held at Arlington National Cemetery with a crowd of 5,000 people decorating the graves of over 20,000 military personnel with flowers. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremonies.

It wasn’t until after World War I that Memorial Day was expanded to honor all veterans who died in any American war. In 1971, Congress passed an act declaring it a national holiday. That same year, Memorial Day was moved from to the last Monday in May. President Lyndon B. Johnson noted in what is now known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, “This will…enable families who live some distance apart to spend more time together,”

Historians were not very supportive of the act. “The primary reasoning behind the move to Mondays was commercial,” according to Jennifer Mittelstadt, a history professor at Rutgers University. “It has everything to do with commerce in the United States. Travel organizations had been pushing for three-day weekends since the 1950s, and they finally got the employee unions on board because there was a fair amount of agreement that it’d be good for business.”

Be that as it may, since Memorial Day honors military personnel who died in the service of their country, I can’t think of a better time for the Rafu Shimpo community to honor the Japanese American veterans of World War II, i.e., the soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service, AND support the Go For Broke National Educational Center (GFBNEC).

Did you know that this June 5 will commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Go For Broke Monument? Did you further know that this year, the GFBNEC will celebrate a future new home that will ensure that our monument is no longer alone in the middle of a parking lot? As always, there will be a celebration to remember its legacy and its symbolism, and cherish the men and women reflected on the monument.

“Future new home?” you ask. For years, the GFBNEC board and staff worked to obtain the approvals and funding to construct a permanent building directly adjacent to the monument. The plans are for a six-story building that extends along Judge John Aiso Street and Temple Street. It will have over 220 affordable housing units, and approximately 30,000 feet of commercial and community space. Best of all, it will provide a permanent home for GFBNEC with a courtyard that embraces the north side of the monument.

Which brings me to my main point. In the past, many Nisei families have made legacy gifts (i.e., through a will or trust) to Keiro Nursing Home since they had a family member(s) there at one point or another. However, since Keiro sold its facilities over five years ago, these families no longer want to make Keiro their beneficiary (or partial beneficiary). So, they come to me to amend their trust. “What other Japanese American organizations can I support?” they would ask.

Let’s start with the GFBNEC. According to their website, including Go For Broke National Education Center as a beneficiary in your will or trust makes you a member of the Legacy Society. As a member of the Legacy Society, you will receive: An invitation to an annual Legacy Society event; periodic updates from GFBNEC’s president and CEO; and recognition in their annual publications and website.

There are also many other Japanese American nonprofit organizations that would be happy to receive your support that have been around for decades. To name a few, there’s the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), and all the local Japanese American community centers around town.

Another Japanese American organization that is relatively new (10 years old) that you may not have heard of is Kizuna. Based in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Jose and Seattle, Kizuna was founded by a group of talented Yonsei (Sansei dropped the ball) with the intent of educating, empowering and engaging a future generation of Japanese Americans. Kizuna’s mission is to build a future for our community through the education, empowerment and engagement of the next generation.

In my opinion, if there is any hope of a future Japanese American community in years to come, Kizuna will be a major factor. For this reason, I personally support Kizuna. You can learn more about Kizuna from their website, www.gokizuna.org. You can make an impact for generations to come by supporting Kizuna with a planned gift, i.e., commonly donated through a will or trust, a planned gift is a contribution, arranged in the present, that is given at a future date.

Another new (opened last year) Japanese American nonprofit that I believe in and support is the Terasaki Budokan, a recreation center right in Little Tokyo. “Terasaki Budokan’s mission is to provide a facility unlike any other in Downtown Los Angeles for youth, families and seniors that offers sports, community activities, and opportunities to connect visitors to Japanese American culture and a vibrant, sustainable Little Tokyo.” (Source: www.terasakibudokan.org)

As more and more Little Tokyo buildings and businesses were being bought out by non-Japanese entities, I feared that someday there might not really be a Little Tokyo for future generations. Terasaki Budokan can make a real difference. “I do believe that this is one of the most important buildings to be built here. It’s extremely important within the community to have a space here for all of us to know we can gather and feel like we are part of something.” – Kent Yoshimura

There are many ways to become a Legacy Partner, including naming Terasaki Budokan in your will or trust. Legacy Partners receive invitations to special events and your name will be listed in our annual report and potentially on their Major Donor/Friends & Family Wall. For more information about becoming a Legacy Partner, call (213) 473-3030 or contact them at TeraBudo@LTSC.org.

I want to conclude with my final point. If you – like me – are concerned about the future of the Japanese American community here in Los Angeles, I can think of no other important entity than The Rafu Shimpo. The Rafu Shimpo keeps the community together. You may know that the paper has been struggling financially for years as many long-time subscribers have passed away in recent decades.

You say, “But Judd, The Rafu Shimpo is not a nonprofit entity.” That is true. But if you leave a legacy gift to The Rafu Shimpo, I don’t think that it matters too much since most of our estates are well under the Federal Estate Tax Exemption of $11.7 million. Now, I’m not a CPA, but my understanding is lifetime gifts to nonprofits give you tax breaks. But I’m talking about legacy gifts upon your death.

Finally, all these entities, nonprofit or not, would appreciate and welcome your support and contributions while you’re still alive. And even if you do not have money to gift, I’m sure these organizations welcome your time as volunteers. Bottom line — if you are Japanese American, do what you can to support the Japanese American community.

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Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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