August 1, 2013

Johnny’s story

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 am by minidokapilgrimage

The words below are Johnny Valdez’s story.  He shared his powerful story with all of the attendees at the 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage.

TheCanal

June 22, 2013

– Twin Falls, ID – My name is Johnny Valdez. I am a Seattle based photographer, and I currently have a running photo exhibition entitled, “My Minidoka”. I am the son of a Sansei mother, and a Latino American Father, Grandson of two Nisei who were once incarcerated here at Minidoka along with their families. As everyone has a story, this one is mine, and it is an extension of theirs’ as well.

I photograph what I love, and what draws me in. My Grandparents are no longer living, so it is with immense compassion and sensitivity that I go about photographing our surviving Nisei. This is because when I take that picture of what I am seeing, I am essential taking a picture of my own Grandparents, and that is what I love.

In camp, my Grandmother’s name was Porky Noritake. She went to Hunt High School, and was in a band called the Minidoka Matinee. She sang songs on the radio like “Shina No Yoru” and “Don’t Fence Me In”. Her older brother Yosh, was in the 442nd’s 100th Battalion, and was killed in action in Bruyeres, France during the rescue of the lost Texas Battalion.

My Grandfather’s name was Johnny Uno. He was four years older than Porky and graduated from Hunt High School in 1943. He went into the Army, and after training at Camp Shelby was assigned to the 442nd. He served in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. After the war he went to school on the G.I. Bill, and later became a podiatrist.

Miyatake

My work entitled “My Minidoka” is dedicated to my grandparents, Johnny and Porky Uno.

My Minidoka” is a personal project and an expression that I have been incubating for several years. It is my take on the Minidoka experience through my eyes and its impact on my own life. It comes from my heart. And it is an ongoing lifelong study of ideas and emotion that continues to evolve and manifest, as I often come to revisit it. It has had a profound effect on who I am as a person.

I was not there at Minidoka during the Second World War, but I have a deep emotional connection to it, as it has greatly affected my life. Like many defining moments in the lives of people, this for me was an impacting awakening of sorrow and tragedy. I first learned of the wrongful injustices and incarceration of a people, my people, when I was 8 years old. It was the 28th of May, 1990 – Memorial Day. This day would forever change the course of my life, and this would be the day when I would come to know Minidoka.

My father woke me up in tears repeating my name, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…” Soon after, he told me that there had been a car accident. “Grandpa died,” he said, “Auntie Mickey died and Uncle Toshi too,” he continued. I was breathless and in unimagined disbelief. It was awful. In tears I asked, “What about Grandma?” “Grandma is alright,” he said. And although I was experiencing a pain that I had never felt before, I was greatly relieved that I still had my grandmother.

The four of them were on their return journey home to Seattle from a pilgrimage to Minidoka when this fateful tragedy occurred. My father further explained to me the circumstances, significance and purpose of my grandparents’ and their siblings’ journey to this place in Idaho.

I was extremely close to my grandparents, and learning about mortality and impermanence in this traumatic way, I remember thinking that I never wanted to leave my grandmother’s side. During those days I even used to sleep on the floor next to her bed. I found myself extremely curious and inquisitive about these unique lives and the history of my grandparents, and my grandmother was my key to the past.

For years she and I shared in great conversations, and I was full of questions. She spoke of the shame, struggle and trauma of her people that once was, and which now transcends into great pride. Our people lost everything. We have shed our own blood to prove our loyalty and allegiance to the only country that we have ever called home.

Now as I take on this journey with this project, I navigate my way through the past. This work is a homage to my people. It is with immense compassion that I capture these moments, expressions and feelings. My images tend to carry more of a heavier tone and feeling, but in them there is love, and that comes from my heart. This is why I take these pictures. In the words of my Grandmother, “Shoganai! Gaman!”

ImStillStanding

January 26, 2012

Seattle Congressional Gold Medal video

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:02 pm by minidokapilgrimage

For those who were unable to attend the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Seattle on January 15th, a video has been posted online of the ceremony.  Please click the link from the Seattle Channel to view if interested.

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=5011210

January 15, 2012

Seattle Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Honor Roll, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:18 am by minidokapilgrimage

The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee

congratulates the men of the:

442nd Regimental Combat Team,

100th Infantry Battalion

and the Military Intelligence Service

on earning the Congressional Gold Medal.

Photo Courtesy of Collin Ikeda

Photo courtesy of Eugene Tagawa

January 14, 2012, University of Washington – Meany Hall

January 14, 2012

Northwest Nisei soldiers honored for WWII service

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:55 pm by minidokapilgrimage

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017242879_goldmedal15m.html

Northwest Nisei soldiers honored for WWII service

On Saturday, in a ceremony with speeches, music and other tributes, 90 Nisei soldiers from the Pacific Northwest were given honors for their World War II service.

By Nancy Bartley

Seattle Times staff reporter

William Yasutake was a prisoner, along with his parents, when he decided to fight for the country that held them merely because they were Nisei — Japanese Americans.

Other Nisei were shot in battle, charged through minefields, translated documents and performed such wartime heroics as part of the U.S. Army 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service that they became legendary — a fighting force sought throughout the war.

On Saturday, in a ceremony with speeches, music and other tributes, 90 Nisei soldiers from the Pacific Northwest were given honors for their World War II service.

Eighteen were awarded the Bronze Star for valor and all 90 received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

The awards came more than a year after President Obama signed legislation to collectively honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Japanese Americans serving in the Military Intelligence Service.

Sporting burgundy caps with Nisei emblems, they sat solemnly on the stage at Meany Theater at the University of Washington, some clutching canes, all now in their 80s and 90s.

The auditorium was packed with family and friends who rose for a standing ovation as Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli introduced the group, and U.S. Reps. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, and Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, called them heroes who changed the course of history.

“Most of us can’t imagine the bigotry following the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Chiarelli said. The Nisei “were under a heavy cloud of suspicion, yet … they volunteered to serve not knowing if their country would accept them again.”

After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, suddenly friends and neighbors — especially on the West Coast — considered those with Japanese ancestry as possible enemies. In the name of national security they were rounded up and imprisoned in camps. Yasutake and his family, from Seattle, were among them.

At first, Japanese Americans weren’t allowed to join the military. That later changed, and some Nisei — a Japanese word meaning “second generation” — were drafted from the internment camps, while others volunteered. Yasutake was one of the volunteers.

Now 89, and a Bothell resident, he speaks about the war days reluctantly. He was a medic who was wounded but still cared for others. He received two Bronze Stars for combat in Italy and France.

“You don’t think much of it at the time. It came naturally. You worry more about the others than you do yourself,” he said after the ceremony.

Some of the veterans had already been honored in a November ceremony in Washington, D.C., but the majority had not. So Seattle’s Nisei Veterans’ Committee sponsored the ceremony, not just for the veterans but so the local community could be made aware of their accomplishments, said Stanley Shikuma, a committee member.

For family members, the ceremony was a moving tribute.

“I’m just very proud,” said Steven Chihara, who saw his grandfather, Tosh Chihara, receive a gold medal. “I had heard about the things they had to go through back then. It’s hard to imagine it today.”

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @BartleyNews.