Tribune Print Share Text

Title

Congress, fellow vets give heartfelt tribute to serviceman

Japanese-American receives long-overdue recognition

Created date

July 24th, 2012

In April 1942, following Japan s attack on Pearl Harbor, American-born teenager Noboru Richard Horikawa and his family, like all West Coast Japanese-Americans, were interned in a relocation center. Exactly 70 years later at Maris Grove, Erickson Living s community in Delaware County, Pa., where Richard lives, he received a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal. It s the highest civilian medal Congress can award. The presentation by Congressman Patrick Meehan during a meeting of the campus veterans club recognized Richard s work as a Japanese translator in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during World War II.

Interned, yet eager to serve

The award came as a complete surprise. It took a year to finalize and called for diligent documentation and surreptitious planning on the part of veterans club president Larry Lembo and Richard s wife Emi. In recognition of their wartime service, in 2010, President Obama signed legislation to grant the medal collectively to the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the MIS, units predominately composed of second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry. Larry thought Richard deserved his own medal. As I researched, I realized I knew little about this group of vets, he says. Many were interned and yet they wanted to serve. When they were inducted, they raised their hands and pledged they d put their lives on the line for their country. That impressed me very much. I felt it was important that Richard receive this from his veteran peers. Larry and Emi became co-conspirators in assembling documents to confirm Richard s eligibility. Emi stealthily slipped discharge papers, photos, and other information under Larry s door, and he forwarded them to Congressman Meehan s office.

A long-overdue recognition

Maris Grove s veterans club boasts 145 dues-paying members. At monthly meetings, they wear ball caps identifying their service branch, and some wear service-related shirts. At the April meeting, a club buddy persuaded Richard to wear his cap and shirt and sit up front because Congressman Meehan would be discussing Japanese-American military service in WWII. As I listened to what the congressman was saying, I realized it was about me, says Richard. I didn t know what to think. He also didn t realize that his family and a local TV crew were in attendance. When he received his medal, everyone in the room, including 80 of his fellow veterans, rose to honor him with a standing ovation. I felt very humble and very appreciative, Richard says. For weeks afterward, his campus neighbors stopped him in the hallways to thank him for his service. This is a very sharing and caring community, Larry says. That s why we were able to do this. Dick was the star, but the club also felt that anyone who read about or saw this would know what kind of community we are. The day s heartfelt tribute underscores what led the Horikawas to live at Maris Grove. The people and the staff are all very friendly, Emi says. That s why we chose it. For information about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and its service in WWII, go to the442.org.

Comments