gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 73

Afterward, she volunteered and donated to military causes. “Volunteering with the Blue Star moms gave me an opportunity to hear their stories and their fears that one day someone would show up at their door to give them bad news,” McLaughlin said. “Sending letters and packages is a huge boost for troop morale and for their fami- lies at home.” camps. Sakai and his family moved from California to Colorado, where they were not considered a threat to West Coast military defenses. “Families lost everything, their homes, businesses and farms,” Sakai said. “It was a huge loss to Japanese immigrants like my parents who’d worked hard to build a life here in America.” By 1943, American war casualties were high. Troop replacements were desperately needed. President Roosevelt approved a regiment of Japanese- American soldiers. Sakai volunteered to serve. After basic training, he was assigned to the 442nd. In 1944 his regiment fought the Germans in Italy and France, including the rescue of a battalion trapped in the Vosges Mountains—a battle Sakai said is listed as one of the ten greatest achievements in Army history. Sakai was wounded twice by shrapnel and patched up by medics. In March 1945, the 442nd helped push enemy troops back into the Po Valley. The Germans surrendered three months later. In 1946, Sakai’s regiment became the most decorated unit in the Army based on size and length of service. President Truman invited the 442nd to the White House grounds to present the Eighth Presidential Unit Citation, saying, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won.” “People aren’t born with prejudice, they learn it,” Sakai said. “But as young soldiers we were sent across the country to train and all over the world to fight. Being in the military exposed us to dif- ferent people and cultures. We formed our own opinions and did just fine.” Over the years, Sakai has served as a spokesperson for veterans, attended many regimental and company reunions, and established the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans in Morgan Hill. Sakai and his wife have four adult children, seven grandchildren, and one great granddaughter. They moved from Gilroy to Morgan Hill in 2008. Lawson Sakai WWII Veteran In 2014, Morgan Hill selected Lawson Sakai as Grand Marshal of the Fourth of July Parade in 2014. The 91-year-old South County resident made his mark on U.S. history during World War II. Sakai served with the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the European theater. His all Japanese- American regiment was credited with having rescued an entire battalion and other acts of valor. Sakai was awarded two Bronze Stars and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award. In December of 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Sakai was a college student in Southern California. He went to Long Beach Naval Air Base to enlist. “At the beginning of the war, the government classified me as 4C, an enemy alien and said I could not serve.” Meanwhile, over 120,000 Japanese- Americans were sent to internment Jimmy Panetta, Congressman Veteran & Advocate U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, whose 20th district includes Gilroy, served eight years in the Navy Reserve, volunteered for active duty in 2007, deployed to Afghanistan to work with Special Forces units, and was awarded the Bronze Star. “One of the things that had a major impact on my career was my work after the war as a member of the VA Board, helping guide the transition process for GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 returning Veterans to make sure they had services,” Panetta said. He has co- sponsored bipartisan bills addressing a range of veterans’ needs, including: the Gold Star Family Support Act, the Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act, the Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act, the Wingman Act, the “Forever GI” Bill, the Reserve Component Benefits Parity Act, and the VA Employee Fairness Act. 73