Celebration and Remembrance

Presidents Day is a commemoration of Honest Abe’s birthday and a happy day off for many Americans. I spent the long holiday weekend in Salt Lake City to celebrate my uncle Dr. William I. Higuchi’s conferment of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan. After many years of waiting and a long application process, the honor was finally bestowed upon him on Sunday, February 19th in front of a roomful of proud relatives, friends and colleagues. Also known as Day of Remembrance, February 19th marked the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal of Japanese Americans along the West Coast. My uncle’s lifetime achievements in the pharmaceutical sciences and academia are exemplary and globally recognized. Like my family, he was interned at Heart Mountain, and as history would have it, he met his future wife and lifelong partner, my mother’s sister Setsuko Saito, while a school boy in camp. He has been instrumental in the preservation of the Heart Mountain site and with the building of the Interpretive Learning Center. My uncle is an extraordinary man, and I’m very proud of him. The weekend was full of awards, and on Saturday, the day before my uncle’s conferment, I was the lucky recipient of an extra ticket to a luncheon of 1000 people honoring Utah’s Japanese American veterans from WWII. The 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in November of last year but only a handful were able to make it to Washington DC for the ceremony. Only one gold medal was made, and the veterans were given bronze replicas stamped by the U.S. Mint. Overall, it was quite a few days of remembrance and celebration in the Japanese American community. Oh, I didn’t forget Abe and had a bite of birthday cake too.

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