Jet Yotsuuye is the son of NVC Foundation member Robert and Junko Yotsuuye. He currently attends Stadium High School in Tacoma, WA. Jet is a performing member of Tacoma Fuji Taiko and has served as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer for the Tacoma Buddhist Temple’s Young Buddhist Association. At school, Jet is the varsity captain of the water polo team. Jet plans to study computer science or computational biology at the University of Washington in Seattle this fall, although he is awaiting offers from Harvard and Tufts University in Massachusetts.
As a child, growing up surrounded by pictures and awards my family has received through their service in the military, I had always been exposed to the pride and values that come from being a Nisei/Nikkei Veteran. My grandpa, SSgt. Tada Yotsuuye joined the Army Air Forces in 1946 after returning from being interned at the Minidoka Internment Camp. He became part of the initial cadre for the newly established US Air Force in 1947 as a tower controller. My father served as a commissioned officer in the Air Force and has instilled in me the sense of duty, honor, and dedication to which I personally use as motivation to achieve the tasks at hand.
Being an informed 4th Generation Japanese American (Yonsei), I am familiar with the contributions the Japanese American/”Nisei” who have come before me accomplished and honor their sacrifices that allow us to hold our heads high. The history of the 442nd Regiment/100th Battalion, those Japanese Americans who contributed to the successful war effort in the Pacific Theater, as well as those Nikkei who served before and after World War II will forever have a place of pride and honor within me and my family.
However, having family members who experienced the injustice first-hand, I am also aware of the thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II who had their rights and liberties stripped from them through Executive Order 9066. My grandpa and his family are examples of this unjust treatment: being separated from his father at Camp Harmony in Puyallup back in 1943, they spent the next four years within the walls of Minidoka internment camp in Idaho, where they were treated as if they were prisoners of war. Stemming from ignorance, these internment camps were a way for the government to reduce the uneasiness of the American populous: the unfounded fear that the opposition who do not look like the majority are threats to our public’s safety.
This ignorance is what I believe contributes to the foundation of present day anti-Asian discrimination. Growing up within a very ethnically diverse community, I have rarely experienced the racial discrimination I see online and within social media. However, I am also aware of all the Asian hate crimes being committed all around the United States, instilling fear and anger in those who have been or know someone who has been affected by these actions. I believe everyone starts life with an open mind and kind heart. It is the environment you are raised in that influences your behavior and if your community has no other ethnic minorities to interact with, you have no reference to base your decisions upon.
Having only scratched the surface of what my Nisei/Nikkei heritage entails, I hope to learn more about their struggles in college while pursuing my major in Computer Science, specializing in Computational Biology. Computational Biology is the field of study that integrates biology with computer science: taking data from biological processes and using computational analysis to better understand the human body. Research into this field has already made a multitude of different breakthroughs ranging from developing a better understanding on how to cure cancer to reversing damage to previously “irreversibly” damaged nerve tissues. Just like how Colonel Jimmie Kanaya saved the lives of soldiers in World War II as a medic, I want to use my research in Computational Biology to help patients who are suffering from a variety of different diseases and disabilities, which includes the rehabilitation of veterans who suffer from post-war wounds.
Ensuring a diverse balance of subjects taken, I also hope to come out of college with not only the technical degree in which I am pursuing, but a better understanding of where I come from: to learn of the struggles endured by those who have influenced my growth to bring me to this point in life. Generationally, my family continues to stay very involved within the Japanese American community, and I will continue to contribute to this tradition as best I can now and in the future. “My hope during college and beyond is to participate and get more involved with the Japanese American community with groups such as the JACL, NVC, and the Buddhist Temple.”. Additionally, I hope to learn and expose myself to other cultures and ethnicities to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their history. Though I know I have much more to learn, I eventually hope to become an advocate not only for my Japanese American community, but for those communities who experience injustice of the likes of which our Japanese American community has endured in the past to ensure that something like this will never happen again.
To honor and respect all service men and women who serve or served our country has never come into question. Being of Japanese American descent and realizing the history of the Nisei trials, tribulations, and hurdles our forefathers had to endure successfully is an entirely higher level of pride and understanding. I am a 4th Generation Japanese American/”Yonsei” who is proud to be a byproduct of the Nisei Veterans’ legacy. I will continue to participate and ensure our proud legacy is never forgotten.