HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - They fought bravely on battlefields thousands of miles from home. Now more than six decades later, Japanese-American World War II veterans are heading to our nation's capitol to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
Old war buddies are reuniting for a new adventure. They try not to think about their painful past, but this trip is stirring up memories. Jack Nakamura, 88, was wounded twice.
"I got some shrapnel in my skull, but I hope they took it all out," said Nakamura, a 100th Infantry Battalion veteran.
Nakamura and other Nisei soldiers courageously fought the enemy overseas despite distrust and discrimination at home.
"When the war started, we wanted to fight for our country," said Takashi Shirakata, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran.
"That's one reason why I joined, volunteered, too. They were calling me 'Jap' and stuff like that," said Nakamura. "My mother said, 'No, don't join up. But I joined up anyway."
23 veterans left Honolulu with their families on Sunday afternoon. A total of 60 from Hawaii will be attending. The medal will be awarded collectively to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. President Obama approved the honor last year.
"It was something out of this world. I didn't realize that we would be getting an award such as this," said Shirakata.
"For the benefit of all those that passed away, especially, I think it was really something to be cherished," said Yasunori Deguchi, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran.
When these veterans arrive in D.C., they'll be greeted with a special water salute at the airport. For many of them, it's their first trip to our nation's capitol.
"I seen Virginia when we departed to the war, but Washington, D.C. I haven't seen. Smithsonian I haven't seen," said Nakamura.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime journey for the aging heroes.
"I think they recognize that we really did our duty to our country, and I hope I did, but we tried our best," said Nakamura.
After the ceremony on Wednesday, the actual medal will be archived at the Smithsonian Institution. Each Hawaii veteran will receive a replica. Since many of the Nisei aren't able to travel to Washington, a celebration in Hawaii is set for December 17.