Gold Medal awarded to Japanese-Americans

February 23, 2012 8:08:00 PM PST
In 1942, they were labeled "enemy aliens" and sent to internment camps, but on Thursday night in San Jose, Japanese-American men who served this country during World War II are being celebrated for winning the nation's highest civilian honor-- the Congressional Gold Medal.

Byron Honda was born in Walnut Grove in Sacramento County. In 1940 he married Fusako who was born in San Jose. But in 1942, Byron's dreams of becoming a doctor were put on hold when he, Fusako, and their baby Mike were sent to the Amache Internment Camp in Colorado.

They were among the 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans interned after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But a year later, Byron left his growing family behind in camp for Boulder, Colorado and the Military Intelligence Service, or MIS, teaching Japanese language. Byron's eldest son, Mike, is South Bay Congressman Mike Honda, D-san Jose.

"My father's job was to teach Navy intelligence officers," said Mike.

Thursday his 95-year-old mom will accept a Congressional Gold Medal on her late husband's behalf.

Mike: It's for Dad.
Fusako: I wish he's here to look at this.

Fusako says she's surprised and proud as Byron would be if he were here today.

"Oh, if he's here he'd say, 'boy, come on dance!' He's that type, a very happy guy," said Fusako.

The congressman says he fears the lessons of the Japanese-American internment, still have not been learned.

"Citizens and non-citizens have the protection of the Constitution. It's universal, regardless of their status," said Mike.

So many of the veterans and their family members could not make it to Washington D.C. last fall for the ceremony that in addition six regional, events up and down the West Coast, have been planned to make the presentations.

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