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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage

go for broke

The Go For Broke Spirit book is poetry. It is poetry that preserves the humanity of man and more. I first looked at the photos  without the text and was driven to my gut with emotions. The  portrait accompanying each story is a novel in itself… each man’s silent story of honor and dignity is  deeply embedded in the seasoned lines on  his face,  his hands, and in his  eyes. You can’t help but be drawn to the text,  knowing that it would compound the powerful photos with their stories. This is accomplished with poetic precision and inspiration.  Both photos and texts powerfully tell the stories of these young Japanese-American men who fought for their country while their families lived in internment camps. Veterans from Hawaii and the West Coast are represented in the book.

 

More than 80 veterans’ portraits and their stories are preserved in this hardcover book. If this part of our history is to be preserved, it must be through the generations following not only these brave and honorable men, but all others as well.

This book must become a legacy for generations to come so the lessons learned about honor, bravery, dignity, patriotism and human kindness can be lived and practiced by all of us. We owe this to these brave men and their families and to the Issei generation who began this story.  There is no enemy, no hatred, no racism, only ignorance and this can be dealt with, as told by each veteran.

 

The Japanese cultural practice of gaman ( to accept that which cannot be changed) ,

 on( obligation), and gambatte (perseverance)  are constant in how they processed the indignities of war and racism. The stories told by these Japanese-American men must be universally shared to end all wars and man’s inhumanity to man. Simply, fill each household with a copy of this book.

The Go for Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage was created by Shane Sato and Robert Hosting.

On a very personal note, the following appeared in the Hawaii Herald in the May issue of 2017.

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

There’s a piece of unfinished business in my memory that I want to share with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans on behalf of a stranger in Germany.

When I visited Germany years ago, an old woman looked at me and began to weep. She reached out her hand to me. When I went to her, she took my hand, kissed it and began to speak in German, tears rolling down her face. Her grandson explained that I reminded her of the Japanese-American soldiers from Hawaii who were so kind to her during World War II. Was I from Hawai‘i? Yes, I told her, and I know those soldiers.

For the first time in my life since Pearl Harbor, my face was greeted with tears of joy because of the 100th/442nd soldiers,

As a result, in my Dangerous Woman: Poetry for The Ageless,  I included the following poem to honor the Japanese – American soldiers who are still remembered and honored for their humanity while many of their families were in internment camps back home.

 

HAMBURG, GERMANY

In the Philippines,

World War II follows me into the night.

“Stay indoors after dark, people still remember

Japanese soldiers on Corregidor.”

 

My sixth-grade student writes in his journal

“December 7: I hate the Japs. I wish they were all dead.

My grandfather told me about them.”

 

In Hamburg, a woman, lined with age

Holds my hand and weeps to me in German.

I remind her of soldiers from Hawaii.

She has not forgotten their kindness long ago.

 

Our tears taste the same

In German and in English.

We are the only ones standing

In the aftermath of wars.

 

  • From: “Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless”

by Frances H. Kakugawa

 

 

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Hawai’i Herald is publishing the following:

There’s a piece of unfinished business in my memory that I want to share with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans on behalf of a stranger in Germany.

When I visited Germany years ago, an old woman looked at me and began to weep. She reached out her hand to me. When I went to her, she took my hand, kissed it and began to speak in German, tears rolling down her face. Her grandson explained that I reminded her of the Hawai‘i soldiers who were so kind to her during World War II. Was I from Hawai‘i? Yes, I told her, and I know those soldiers.

For the first time in my life since Pearl Harbor, my face was greeted with tears of joy because of the 100th/442nd soldiers.

As a result, in my forthcoming poetry book, I included the following poem to honor the Japanese American soldiers who are still remembered and honored for their humanity while many of their families were in internment camps back home.

 

HAMBURG, GERMANY

In the Philippines,

World War II follows me into the night.

“Stay indoors after dark, people still remember

Japanese soldiers on Corregidor.”

 

My sixth-grade student writes in his journal

“December 7: I hate the Japs. I wish they were all dead.

My grandfather told me about them.”

 

In Hamburg, a woman, lined with age

Holds my hand and weeps to me in German.

I remind her of soldiers from Hawaii.

She has not forgotten their kindness long ago.

 

Our tears taste the same

In German and in English.

We are the only ones standing

In the aftermath of wars.

 

  • From: “Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless”

by Frances H. Kakugawa

 

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A Nation Remembers

 

I attended the  funeral services of Patrick whose wife was in my writing support group for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s diseases. Patrick was buried at Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii  where he was given full military honors. I wrote this poem for him:

 

A Salute to Patrick at Punchbowl Cemetery

 

The soldiers stood cemented to the grassy ground
Like statues, while Buddhist sutras filled the air.
Movement would dishonor the man who once stood
In his uniform, like his comrades today.

 

The three-gun salute, the wailing taps,
The precision of the folding of the flag,
A salute purified by white gloves
For the presentation of the symbolic flag.

 

Each step of ultimate precision, a tribute to dignity,
Honor and respect for the fallen soldier,
From the country whom he had served
With love, dignity and honor.

 

Whatever Alzheimer’s had stolen from him,
All was returned to him today.
Whatever memories, forgotten,
The country that he loved, remembered.

 

A final rest in peace.

 

(from Mosaic Moon by Frances Kakugawa
Sets’ poems are also included in Mosaic Moon.)

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Patrick Yoshida

I met Patrick through his caregiver wife, Setsuko. Setsuko was a member of my writing support group for caregivers.  I walked into their home and Patrick gave me a shy smile and a strong handshake. “He knows I’m here,” I thought.

He looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Are you married?”

I teased him, “No, I’m not married. Nobody wants to marry me, Patrick. Don’t you think that’s terrible?”

He smiled and concealed a chuckle. His wife  added, “But Patrick, she had many lovers.” He looked at me, smiled and deliberately said, “Good for you.”

Before I left, he gave me a strong handshake. When I told him I would return again to see him, he said, “Good.”

His words were few but he had said all the right things to me. And I felt like a woman.

I attended his funeral services at Punchbowl Cemetery where he was given full military honors. I wrote this poem for him:

A Salute to Patrick at Punchbowl Cemetery

The soldiers stood cemented to the grassy ground
Like statues, while Buddhist sutras filled the air.
Movement would dishonor the man who once stood
In his uniform, like his comrades today.

The three-gun salute, the wailing taps,
The precision of the folding of the flag,
A salute purified by white gloves
For the presentation of the symbolic flag.

Each step of ultimate precision, a tribute to dignity,
Honor and respect for the fallen soldier,
From the country whom he had served
With love, dignity and honor.

Whatever Alzheimer’s had stolen from him,
All was returned to him today.
Whatever memories, forgotten,
The country that he loved, remembered.

A final rest in peace.

(from Mosaic Moon by Frances Kakugawa
Sets’ poems are also included in Mosaic Moon.)

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Memorial Day, 2010

Memorial Day must be near, ads for grills and recipes for ribs are filling up pages of the Sacramento Bee.

A few days ago, we bought a Sago palm. My parents’ house always had a Sago Palm in the front yard. It was a plant nourished and cherished by my father.  I grew up thinking it was a plant to be spiritually honored because it was referred to as a thousand-year-old plant and my child’s mind believed it had lived for a thousand years.

When eruption forced the evacuation of our village, I was not there and no one thought of saving my shoe box of childhood secrets and poems hidden in my closet, but the Sago Plant was dug and taken to the next relocated home site. And there it grew above my height.

The house and palm are no longer there but another now grows in our front yard.

Putting aside grills and hot dogs, this is a weekend for remembrance and honor. During my 6 years in Hawaii’s  schools, I, along with all the students in our elementary schools, sewed a fresh flower lei and took it to school on the Friday before Memorial Day.  These thousands of leis were flown by the National Guard  to the  National Memorial Cemetery at  Punchbowl on Oahu.   Boy Scouts in crisp uniform placed a lei on each grave site of each fallen soldier. I imagine children taking  leis to schools today as they have done traditionally since 1949.  May the number of leis not be increased beyond the over 30,000 grave sites today, as we live with hope for peace.

To all my ancestors from Hiroshima to Hawaii, each new leaf of the Sago Palm will bear your name.

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