On December 18, 2013, Consul-General Nozomu Takaoka hosted a reception celebrating the opening of the Congressional Gold Medal Exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston.
The Holocaust Museum Houston is the last venue on the Congressional Gold Medal's seven-city tour. The exhibit, which runs from December 19th through January 26th, honors The 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the U.S Army, all of who served during World War II. Comprised almost entirely by Japanese-American soldiers, these men were among the most decorated groups in the war. The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, was bestowed to these men by President Obama and stands as a historic testament to the Japanese American soldiers who fought heroically for their country while being discriminated at home.
Many esteemed Japanese American veterans of the 442nd and MIS were the guests of honor at the reception which saw nearly 75 guests. The celebration recognized the achievements of these veterans, some of which live in Houston and others who travelled as far as California and Massachusetts for the event. Among those honored that evening were veterans Mr. Nelson Akagi, Mr. George Fujimoto, Mr. Sus Ito, Mr. Tommie Okabayashi, Mr. Robert Peizer, Mr. Lawson Sakai, Mr. Kenneth Takehara and Mr. Willie Tanamachi. These veterans, in their eighties and nineties, came accompanied by their proud family members, and other relatives came in place of veterans who have passed on.
In his remarks, Consul-General Takaoka credited the men of the 442nd and MIS for their valor, and their heroic accomplishments. He addressed their miraculous rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” a Texas troop that was encircled by Nazis during World War II, and their liberation Jewish prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp. The Consul-General expressed his beliefs that the heroic and honorable actions of the Japanese Americans added another dimension of friendship to the present Japanese, American and Jewish relations. (Link)
The reception was also honored by the presence of Admiral Patrick Walsh, who was integral in heroic efforts by the U.S military during the 2011 Earthquake Recovery in Tohoku, Japan. Admiral Walsh addressed his fellow servicemen with humility and gratitude and attested to their profound bravery. In his moving speech he recounted a visit to a veteran’s hospital where he met several Japanese American veterans. Organizers Donna Cole and Ms. Christine Sato-Yamazaki of the National Veterans Network also gave heartfelt remarks to the veterans, and lent their incredible skills to making this historic event and nation-wide tour a reality.
A congratulatory message for the veterans was sent by Senator John Cornyn, thanking the veterans for their exceptional military service. A representative for Congressman Al Green read his letter applauding the Japanese American veterans for their unwavering commitment to serve and for promoting the rich history, experience and legacy. A representative for Senator Ted Cruz was also present at the ceremony.
In addition, on December 19th there was an opening ceremony for the display of the Gold Congressional Medal at the Holocaust Museum Houston. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, the executive director of the Holocaust Museum Houston, Kelly Zúñiga and Consul General Takaoka were present. On December 20th, the Holocaust Museum sponsored a brunch meeting with veterans , which was also attended by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Consul General Takaoka and French Consul General Sujiro Seam.
The Gold Congressional Medal exhibit runs from December 19th through January 26th at the Holocaust Museum Houston (Link: http://www.hmh.org/ViewExhibits.aspx?ID=93&ExhibitType=UpcomingOngoing).