• 1212 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98144
  • (206) 322-1122
  • info@nvcfoundation.org

The Nisei Veterans Committee and NVC Foundation and its community of members, volunteers, supporters, and friends successfully commemorated the 78th Annual Nisei Veterans Memorial Day Service at the well-manicured and historic grounds of Lake View Cemetery on Seattle’s scenic Capitol Hill. It was a historic event highlighted by the distinguished participation of our Keynote Speaker, The Honorable Erika Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison, The White House. The honor of having a senior representative from President Biden’s staff partake in our service is in recognition of the courageous legacy and the selfless contributions of the WWII Nisei soldier to the freedoms, lifestyles, and opportunities we possess as Americans today.

Additional special guests included: Congressman Adam Smith (D-9th); Consul General of Japan Hisao Inagaki and his wife Yuki Inagaki; Vice Admiral Barry Costello, USN (Ret.), former Commander of the 3rd Fleet; Washington State Senator Bob Hasegawa, Washington State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos; and 100-year-old Kim Muromoto, 442nd RCT veteran who was appropriately recognized by the audience as he solely and proudly stood representing his NVC WWII veteran colleagues who have passed away or were physically unable to attend.

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It was a chilly, overcast morning where generations of the old and young assembled early (estimated attendance of more than 140) to individually position themselves to participate in the service to privately reflect and honor our fallen heroes.  Post-pandemic, one could sense closeness and see the individual smiles as people felt comfortable to embrace and shake hands to renew valued personal friendships while excited to establish new ones. It was wonderful to see and feel the human interaction as it was before, as well as continue the NVC tradition to remember and honor those fallen soldiers from our community — a tradition and remembrance that must be carried on by future generations.

With determined energy and commitment, volunteers led by NVC Vice Commander Dale Kaku and long-time volunteer and truck provider Mark Hidaka of City Produce assembled in the early morning to pick-up, load, and set up the essential folding chairs graciously donated each year by the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple. Each seat was strategically placed forming a theater-like setting to allow every attendee a clear sightline to the service. Thank you, Set-Up Crew!!!

Lake View Cemetery Manager Craig Lohr and Assistant Sid Ko and their excellent cemetery team once again provided the needed tents, stage, and labor at no cost to the NVC.  The entire grounds were freshly prepared and the areas where the NVC Memorial is located, as usual, were beautifully adorned to provide the perfect setting and ambiance.  We are very fortunate, appreciative, and honored to have this strong and longstanding relationship with Lake View Cemetery that has spanned decades. Thank you, Lake View Cemetery!!!

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Traffic flowed smoothly into the cemetery as safe drop-offs of seniors close to the event location were carefully monitored, while parking was orderly due to the oversight and directions provided by Kevin Fukuhara and Warren Higa.  Great work by the Traffic Control team!!!

The professional sound system was strategically placed, tested, tweaked, and fine-tuned by retired Air Force veteran Kevin MacCulley, President of AVR Productions. Each breath and word uttered by the featured participants clearly resonated throughout the grounds. The equipment, time, and skillful oversight of the microphones and background music were all provided complimentary to the NVC. We extend a grateful thanks to Kevin once again!!!

In her 18th year as the emcee, Colleen Fukui-Sketchley delivered another fine performance as she eloquently welcomed the audience, called for the colors, skillfully introduced honored guests and each participant to the podium, and provided the necessary background, emotions, and feelings for the service. We extend thanks to Colleen for her continued years of service as the graceful voice of the NVC Memorial Day Service!!!

Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple Boy Scout Troop 252, led by Scout Master Corey Murata, again provided the ceremonial presentation and retiring of colors for the Memorial Service. Each scout arrived early to prepare their steps and cadence to this important procedure. Their practice proved worthy as they demonstrated professionalism beyond their years. Troop 252 Scouts were: Alexander Bertelsen, Sebastian Kaku, Theo Kaku, Ansel Ketcherside, and Reese Tanabe. The community is very proud of these young leaders as they learn of the sacrifices made by soldiers who fought for our freedoms. Their demonstration of leadership and volunteer service are to be commended and recognized. Thank you, Troop 252!!!

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Also, Captain Kaleni Louie, USAFR, 446th Airlift Wing (Associate) dutifully led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.  We thank Captain Louie for his service to our country!!!

The National Anthem was superbly performed by 2017 NVC Scholarship Recipient Danielle Hirano as she provided her first public performance of the anthem, drawing heart-felt applause from the audience. Danielle is a regular supporter of the NVC and a great example of the talent and character of the NVC Scholars that have been uniquely selected by the scholarship committee. Thank you, Danielle!!!

Each Memorial Day Service is solemnly unique especially with the tailored and carefully crafted messages and prayers delivered by clerics from the Christian Churches and Buddhist Temples. The audience carefully listened and reflected as they spoke and chanted. In sincere appreciation, we thank the following:

Invocation – Rev. Lisa Ishihara, University Chaplain, Seattle Pacific University

Meditation – Rimban Katsuya Kusunoki, Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple and Rev. Taijo Imanaka, Seattle Koyasan Buddhist Temple

Reflection – Dale H. Watanabe, Blaine Memorial UMC Member, Treasurer of Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, Director of the International Student Center at Seattle University

Benediction – Rev. Karen Yokota Love, Sr. Pastor, Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church

NVC Commander Lt Col Michael Yaguchi, USAF (Ret) provided an excellent welcome by recognizing everyone, including special guest Erika Moritsugu, and uplifting the importance of the NVC Memorial Day Service to remember and honor the service and ultimate sacrifices of fallen soldiers from the Japanese American community, as well as the Gold Star families who endured the loss of a family member.

New NVC Foundation President Shawn Brinsfield thanked all participants for continuing to participate and attend the annual service and provided the message that the fallen soldier is remembered and not forgotten.  This was an opportunity for our organization leaders to meet and greet members of our community in person. We are very appreciative of their commitment and service and excited to support and join them in contributing to the bright future of the NVC and NVC Foundation in the months and years to follow.

Congressman Adam Smith provided an insightful message stating that the Nisei Veteran is a symbol of Memorial Day — the soldiers who protected the ideals of America by protecting our country when the country did not protect them at the time. They gave their lives for freedom despite the incarceration of their family and friends back home, to preserve the freedoms, opportunities, and quality of life that we have in America today. We need to remember these personal sacrifices each and every day.

Honored guest speaker Erika Moritsugu, a Hawaiian born Yonsei, provided an exceptional, insightful, detailed, and personal speech (see enclosed Moritsugu Speech) treating each attendee with carefully prepared messages that a representative from the White House is expected to deliver. She did not disappoint us and thoroughly impressed everyone.  Moritsugu expressed reverence to the fallen Nisei soldiers recognizing their loyalty, bravery, and patriotism to their country. She professed an adage that she was taught at an early age, “Okagesama de,” which loosely translates to “I am who I am because of you,” noting the heroism of the Nisei soldier and the greatest generation of Nisei.

Moritsugu confidently articulated President Biden’s support for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community weaving in her White House role and her personal account of the American military contributions of her Grandfather Richard Yutaka Moritsugu and Medal of Honor relatives Masato “Curly” Nakae and Robert Toshio Kuroda. She announced that a bill has been signed into law that paves the way for the creation of a museum in Washington, DC, to educate others on the AA and NHPI contributions to America including those of the Nisei Veteran and Nisei Americans. The NVC / NVCF has a new friend and advocate in Erika. Welcome and Domo Arigato Moritsugu-san!!!

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The NVC and NVC Foundation were honored by the attendance and participation of veterans, the Japanese Consulate, organizational partners, friends, and supporters through the traditional offering of decorative floral wreaths. As the community wreaths were carried to the Memorial, one could solemnly associate the petals of flowers as symbols of the many individuals, families, and organizations who lost loved ones during war or conflict and their ardent beauty as elements depicting honor, reverence, and remembrance.

The following organizations and representatives participated in the wreath presentations:

Gold Star Families – Allen Nakamoto, Past NVC Commander, and Frank Kiuchi, NVC Executive Council Member
Consulate General of Japan – Hisao Inagaki, Consul General of Japan, and Spouse Yuki Inagaki
Japan-America Society of the State of Washington – Shoko Farmer, Chair, and Dale Watanabe, Executive Director
Federation of the Buddhist Churches of Seattle
          Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple – Leanne Nishi-Wong, Board President
          Seattle Koyasan Buddhist Temple – Idris Beauregard, Board President
          Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church – Mary Kawaguchi
Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Chapter – Kyle Kinoshita, Co-President
Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington – Kurt Tokita, Board President
Kawabe Memorial House – Emi Mizuki, Executive Director, and Rick Takeuchi, Deputy Director
Keiro Northwest – Scott Kushino, Board President, and Nancy Calos-Nakano, Board Officer
UW Nikkei Alumni Association / SYNKOA – Rick Takeuchi, Past NVC Commander
Seattle Dojo – Sensei Alan Yamada
American Legion Cathay Post 186 – Haydon Mar, Commander, and Jackson Chan, Sergeant at Arms
Nisei Veterans Committee – Lt Col Michael Yaguchi, USAF (Ret.), Commander
NVC Foundation – Shawn Brinsfield, President

The playing of Taps and the retiring of the colors concluded the formalities of the 78th Annual NVC and NVC Foundation Memorial Day Service.

A special thanks to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly to contribute to the success of the event, as well as the participants and attendees.

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Over the past few years, sadly, many Nisei have passed away. It is extremely important for future generations to maintain this annual Memorial Day Service as the legacy of Nisei Veterans must be remembered. Please mark your calendars and encourage your families and friends to attend next year.

Notes / Credits:

  • Designer Jordan Kiga for another professionally designed and edited program.
  • Dale Kaku and Kim Muromoto for coordinating the wreath orders and their placement before the Memorial.
  • Ilene Tanabe, Administrator at the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple, for her “behind the scenes” assistance.
  • Dale Watanabe for filming, editing, and creating the following video: HTTPS://YOUTU.BE/2OOCS6IZOMQ
  • Eugene Tagawa for credited photos.