Famed 442nd combat team celebrates another year

Charles Saiki
Charles Saiki
Tajiro Uranaka
Tajiro Uranaka

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - They fought to prove their patriotism, and in doing so, earned recognition as the most decorated world war two combat team.

The 442nd Regimental squad, a segregated unit of Americans of Japanese Ancestry, celebrated its 66th anniversary Sunday.

More than a hundred veterans and their families gathered in Waikiki to reminisce about the past and look ahead to the future. They realize each anniversary is equally important because fewer survivors show up each year.

Charles Saiki made it once again to this celebration. One that's been happening for nearly 70 years now.

"As the years go by, I feel lonely because my comrades get some of them die away and right now we have only a handful left," he said.

But he keeps these precious moments close to his heart. So close that he's never missed an anniversary for this special group of veterans.

"I make sure I come every year to see the ones that are surviving yet and it's really thrilling to see them every year," he said.

The 442nd soldiers earned the right to be recognized as full-fledged citizens of the United States.

These men also played an important part in Hawaii's Statehood. But despite all the awards and accolades, they still realize the time with each other is slipping away.

"Even I'm getting old already, I'm gonna be 88 and most of the boys here are all past 85 and over," 442nd veteran Tajiro Uranaka said.

Saiki shares that same sentiment.

"I feel my days are coming soon too, so we have to take advantage of it whenever we can get together," Saiki said. "Those of us that are left back should be very happy, we're still surviving and I hope we have many more years like this again."

In this year of the state's 50th anniversary, the theme of their event is "The 442nd, A Pillar of Statehood, Still Standing Strong." One veteran joked that, "still sitting" may be more accurate.