Friday, February 15, 2013

Pausing to remember

On February 19, 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. With that penstroke, three generations of Japanese-Americans had their lives changed forever. Children, parents and grandparents -- the majority of them American citizens -- were removed from their West Coast homes and forced into what were then called "War Relocation Camps."  Today they are more-widley known as interment camps.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team hiking
up a muddy French road in late 1944.
Whatever you call them, the camps became de facto prisons for more than 110,000 legal residents of the United States for nearly three years during World War II.

Today, the House of Representatives took a few minutes to remember this injustice, and also to honor our Nisei Veterans.  The 442nd Infantry Regiment was almost entirely made up of  Japanese-American soldiers - and was the highest-decorated regiment in the history of the U.S. Army and was involved in liberating prisoners at Dachau and saving the famous "lost battalion" from Texas. 14,000 volunteers served their country with uncommon distinction, even though their families were being detained in the relocation camps back home.

Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Monica Stonier both had family members in the camps, and spoke on the House floor today.  Here is an excerpt from  Rep. Stonier's speech:

"He [her great-grandfather] had 11 children to gather and calm when Exec. Order 9066 came. Four of his sons, at a time when their government failed them, put on the same uniforms of those who kept their family behind fences, and stepped forward, like the others from the 442nd in the galleries today.

When most families would have likely been fighting their interment and would have been fighting to get their rights back, many people – like my uncles, persistently showed their love for our country.

Mr. Speaker, this is the day we remember what can happen, even in a country as great as ours, when fear drives our actions."

Read this story in Spanish.