|Mr. Sam Mitsui (center) with Rotary President, |
Mark Rusnak (L) , and Past President, Al Isaac (R)
“Rainy Day” patriots are those that go beyond the sunshine days and continue despite the odds in increasingly difficult situations. Have you ever met a real “Rainy Day” Patriot? One who exudes commitment to his/our country and his fellow citizens no matter what; one who, even when severely wronged by his own country, puts that behind him and steps up to fight and die for that country and all its people? Well, we met one at the Des Moines Rotary Club meeting on November 16, 2011. Mr. Sam Mitsui of the Nesei Veterans Committee, Seattle, visited us then, and he shared the deep hurts of inflicted prejudice amid war hysteria in World War Two, the impact of Executive Order 9066 that incarcerated so many without due process, and the extraordinary commitment of Nisei and Issei. In spite of it all, they persevered and provided exceptional service above self in support of our country in so many ways anyway.
Mr. Mitsui opened the program with a video telling the sobering story of the 100th Bn/442d Regiment, its forming, training, and extraordinary valor in combat in World War Two. His follow-on personal presentation was a poignant and inspiring product of a truly humble, loyal, and committed citizen who wished to share his experiences and refresh lessons of tolerance and community that were so absent in his youth.
Mr. Mitsui’s stories of verbal abuse and humiliation refreshed important lessons for many. Rotarian B.J. Bjorneby related later that he was born in 1935 and was 6 years old when WW2 started. “I remember all the "Japs, Yellow, Bucktooth, nips," etc. words that were common. Also "no japs allowed" signs and such. As kids, we played WW2. The wooded gully near our house was the jungle of Guadalcanal or Saipan and we spent our days shooting the "Jap" snipers out of the trees. I lived in Bremerton and my Mom worked in the Navy Yard. There were kids from every state this side of the Mississippi including some from the South many of whom were "nigger haters". It would have been easy to become a bigot if not for my Mom teaching us to respect everyone, regardless of color. In my adult years I met a couple of guys around my age who had been sent to someplace in Idaho called an 'Internment camp" as a child.
Their stories were the same as Mr. Mitsui's. I had heard of the Nisei Warriors but enjoyed Mr. Mitsui's enlightenment of their heroics. I was struck by Mr. Mitsui's quote that I wish I could remember verbatim something like "Live if you can, Die if you must but don't bring shame to your family or your country"
|Officer Jan Magnuson with Mitsui|
Des Moines Police Officer and Rotarian Jan Magnuson said, “What an interesting and moving presentation! And how wonderful that Mr. Mitsui is still so active in the organization, and is making sure that the memory of what those brave soldiers did in WWII will always be remembered. They are truly proud Americans. Rotarian Ric Jacobson added, “I know that everyone in the crowd did not know all the facts about these brave men who stood up for their country when their country did not stand up for them. What an inspiring part of history. Thanks to Mr. Mitsui and his great presentation. We do not think back (as we should) about how these "Americans" were treated in their homeland and what they did to protect our homeland. Thank You to everyone who served and died.”
As Rotarians we focus on “Service above Self” to our community, nation and world. Through all of the carefully explained historical illustrations and descriptions of more recent events of positive recognition, Mr. Matsui’s show of strength of character, humility, loyalty, honor and courage represented all Nisei and Issei exceptionally well. His and their actions are truly examples of exceptional “Service above Self.” The Rotary Club of Des Moines is grateful to Mr. Mitsui for his very special and memorable presentation.
Article written by Rotary Club of Des Moines Past President, Al Isaac, COL, USA, Retired. For more information about the Rotary Club of Des Moines, please visit www.dmrotary.org