An Evening of Heroes

Veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service were recognized at the beginning of the program.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The Go For Broke National Education Center commemorated significant anniversaries in Japanese American history at its 17th annual Evening of Aloha gala dinner, held Sept. 8 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles and attended by nearly 800 people.

ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor David Ono returned as emcee.

With “Okage Sama De” (Because of You, I Am) as the theme, the fundraiser marked the 75th anniversary of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s first exposure to combat and the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, as well as the 30th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The evening was an expression of gratitude to the veterans and others who made redress possible.

The program began with the introduction of 15 Nisei World War II veterans on stage, with a standing ovation from the audience, the posting of colors by the Hawaii-based 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment Color Guard, and a performance of the national anthem by recording artist Lauren Hanako Kinkade. The veterans were:

Paul Bannai, Military Intelligence Service (MIS)

Don Seki, 442nd

Masao Kadota, 442nd

George Shimizu, MIS

Tokuji “Toke” Yoshihashi, 100th

Ralph Matsumoto, MIS

Yoshio “Yosh” Nakamura, 442nd

Haruo Hayashi, 442nd

Fernando Sosa Masuda, 442nd

Don Miyada, 100th

Fumio Steve Shimizu, 442nd

Ralph Kaneshiro, MIS

Kenjiro Akune, MIS

Hitoshi Ohara, Counterintelligence Corps

Yoichi Ichikawa, 442nd

Veterans of other wars and active-duty military personnel who were present, as well as wives, widows and sisters of Nisei vets, were asked to stand up and be recognized.

The many veterans who have passed away since the last Evening of Aloha were saluted in an “In Memoriam” video.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and GFBNEC CEO Mitch Maki join in a toast.

In keeping with the Hawaiian theme, hula entertainment was provided by Staci Toji and Lane Maki.

The menu was created by Roy Yamaguchi, chef, founder and owner, Roy’s Restaurants Worldwide; Akira Hirose, chef and owner, Maison Akira (Pasadena); and Jeremy Choo, innovation pastry chef, King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant. The evening’s culinary team also included Raymond Nicasio, executive chef, Westin Bonaventure; Garrett Mukogawa, corporate executive chef, Roy’s Restaurant, Hawaii; Charles Andres, executive chef, Humble Market Kitchin, Wailea Maui; and Randy Bangloy, executive chef, Eating House 1849, Honolulu.

Sumi Seki, wife of WWII veteran Don Seki, and other spouses were applauded for their own dedication and sacrifice.

The emcee was David Ono of ABC 7 Eyewitness News and the dinner co-chairs were Terry Hara, retired LAPD deputy chief; Akiko Maloney, clinical pharmacist, Keck Hospital of USC; and Nancy Okubo, vice president and segment manager, MUFG Union Bank, who delivered greetings on behalf of the co-chairs.

Mitchell Maki, GFBNEC president and CEO, said that proceeds from the gala will support the organization’s traveling exhibit, which has gone to different regions of the country to share “the legacy of our veterans in our community with Americans who otherwise would not know of this story.”

Stephen Kagawa, GFBNEC board chair, said that while growing up he knew nothing about his family’s incarceration during World War II or the accomplishments of the Nisei soldiers, but he has since learned about “the steadfast character of our people” and “the sacrifices of bloodshed” that made possible the life he enjoys today.

Okage Sama De Award

Kagawa introduced the Okage Sama De Award recipients, who “gave unselfishly of their time, of their talent and of their resources” to make two projects a reality: the Go For Broke Monument and GFBNEC’s move to the former Nishi Hongwanji building in Little Tokyo. Bruce Kato is president of Gardena-based Kato Construction Management Inc., which coordinated all construction activities, including planning, for the monument, which was unveiled in 1999. Jim Wellbaum, the owner of Triwell Properties Inc., a real estate investment and asset management company, facilitated GFBNEC’s move from Torrance to Downtown L.A.

Kato, who recalled GFBNEC’s humble beginnings in “that little tiny office on Gardena Boulevard,” thanked everyone who got the monument project off the ground and said he was “very proud to be a part of Go For Broke history.”

Bruce Kato (at podium) and Jim Wellbaum received the Okaga Sama De Award for contributions to GFBNEC.

Wallbaum said he was approached in 2013 by Go For Broke’s Ch