Moment of silence at Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. From left: Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, LTC Robert Vokac, USA (Ret), and Sandra Tanamachi. (Photo by Howard High)

WASHINGTON — On July 15, the Japanese American Veterans Association held the third annual Day of Affirmation wreath ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Day of Affirmation commemorates the anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s review of the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) on the White House Ellipse on July 15, 1946.

JAVA named the event the “Day of Affirmation” because Truman’s salute to the Japanese American soldiers that “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won” affirms that all the Japanese American soldiers, men and women, who served during World War II are America’s heroes and removes any doubt that they are loyal citizens of the United States of America.

Sounding of Taps by Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Gearhart, “President’s Own” United States Marine Band, National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. (Photo by Howard High)

This year’s participants in the wreath ceremony were historically meaningful. The military escort for this year’s event was LTC Robert Vokac, U.S. Army (Ret). He is a grandson of Col. Virgil R. Miller, who was the commanding officer of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team starting with the battle to save the Texas Lost Battalion.

One of the two wreath-bearers was Sandra Tanamachi, whose uncle, Saburo Tanamachi, was killed in action while serving with the 442nd in its efforts to save the Lost Battalion and was one of the first Japanese Americans to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Col. Miller was a pallbearer at Saburo Tanamachi’s burial. Sandra Tanamachi was presented with JAVA’s Courage, Honor Patriotism Award in 2005 for her 12-year struggle to have a racial slur removed from Texas street signs.

The other wreath-bearer was Missy Higgins Abrunzo, whose father, Capt. Marty Higgins, was the commanding officer of the Lost Battalion at the time the 442nd rescued it. After World War II, Higgins worked with Mike Masaoka, the JACL Washington, D.C. representative at the time, in support of the Immigration and Nationality Act of. 1952, which allowed Issei to apply for naturalized citizenship.

JAVA wishes to thank CAIC International for their donation of this year’s Day of Affirmation wreath.

Below are JAVA President Gerald Yamada’s remarks.

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Thirty-three thousand Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II. They served in the face of prejudice at home and in spite of the government’s distrust of their ethnicity. They served with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe, as Military Intelligence Service trained interpreters, translators, and interrogators assigned to military units fighting in the Pacific, with the Women’s Army Corps and Army Nurse Corps, and in rebuilding Pearl Harbor.

JAVA President Gerald Yamada offers remarks during Day of Affirmation ceremony at Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. (Photo by Neet Ford)

On this date and hour 76 years ago, President Harry S. Truman saluted the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team on the White House Ellipse, by stating that “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win….”

The president’s salute affirmed that the Japanese American soldiers, men and women, who served during World War II are loyal citizens of the United States of America.

The Japanese American Veterans Association is proud to present this wreath to honor the legacy forged by the valor and patriotism of the Japanese American men and women who served during World War II.

The participants in today’s ceremony honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s rescue of the Texas Lost Battalion, which is one of the historically significant battles fought by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The U.S. Army considers this rescue one of the 10 most significant battles in its history.

At the end of October 1944, the 442nd RCT, a segregated all Japanese American combat unit (except for its officers), was ordered to rescue 275 members of the 1st Battalion of the 141st Texas Regiment that had become surrounded by the German army. After a fierce 5-day battle, 211 members of the Texas Lost Battalion were rescued with the 442nd RCT suffering over 800 casualties, including 54 killed in action.

The military escort for this year’s event is LTC Robert Vokac, U.S. Army (Ret). He is a grandson of Col. Virgil R. Miller, who became the commanding officer of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during the battle to save the Texas Lost Battalion.

One of the two wreath-bearers is Sandra Tanamachi, whose uncle, Saburo Tanamachi, was killed in action while serving with the 442nd RCT in its efforts to save the Texas Lost Battalion and is one of the first Japanese Americans to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The other wreath-bearer is Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, whose father, Capt. Martin Higgins, was the commanding officer of the Texas Lost Battalion at the time the 442nd RCT rescued it.

Let’s have the wreath presentation proceed.

In honor of those who served, I ask you to face the Freedom Wall, bow your heads, and observe a moment of silence.

For all those who served, thank you for your service.

That concludes our program. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the third annual Day of Affirmation.

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