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Honor, Thrift, Hard Work, Courage, Honesty, Humility, Kindness--Out of Style?

Deidre Tegarden
Deidre Tegarden

Values are a frequent theme this political season, and on Maui, a community group is working to ensure that the values and can-do attitude of previous generations are a part of everyone’s life today.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa takes us on a visit to the Maui Nisei Veterans Memorial Center on Go For Broke Place.

Credit NVMC
The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center has an inspiring campus on Go for Broke Place just off Kahului Beach Road on Maui. Maui Adult Day Care and Kansha Preschool are located in the upper campus, with some cross-generational overlap of programs. Offices, a small exhibition space and a meeting room are located off the lower parking lot.
This is a talk story with Hiroshi Arisumi about his experiences, with Leonard Oka about starting the NVMC, and with Brian Moto about how having values can contribute to a sense of purpose. Deidre Tegarden contributes perspective: In 1952, 100th Battalion members committed to "Continuing Service." They also talk about the origins of Go For Broke!

Coming up at the Nisei Veterans’ Memorial Center, a film and discussion in honor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembrance Days.  The U.S atomic bombs were dropped August 6th  and 9th respectively.  All Hawai‘i’s living governors are sharing insights as part of the Center’s Leadership series.  Governor Neil Abercrombie will speak in August.  

"The values of honor, thrift, hard work, courage, honesty, humility, kindness.  If you are from Hawai‘i, this is your story, this is your legacy."

Credit NVMC
Brian Moto, President of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center

And it’s also an American story, says Brian Moto, President of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, NVMC.  His dad was a 100th Battalion member.  The NVMC is focused on perpetuating the values that veterans exemplified.

Moto:  What does it mean to be someone’s comrade, someone’s brother or sister, especially in times of hardship?  What does it mean to be brave?

“When they asked for 3,000 men, 10,000 men said, “I’ll go.”

Hiroshi Arisumi, born in Olinda, was a member of the 232nd Combat Engineers of the 442 Combat Team.

Arisumi:  Every guy in the 442, when they volunteered, they figured, they’re not coming back.  Most of us, we thought, Well, this is a one-way ticket.  Hawai‘i guys, they really loved America, but people didn’t think that way. 

Why did you and your friends want to go?

Arisumi:  For one thing, we kind of showed them that us Japanese boys, we’re just as much American as the other guys!

"The common element all of these men had was their upbringing.  That’s why it’s important to tell the story going back to the Issei."

Credit NVMC
Leonard Oka, founding member of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center. Vet Hiroshi Arisumi says Oka is the one who has been keeping the 442 spirit strong on Maui all these decades, by staying in touch with the old guys. Oka says there's a reason for that: He's a hard headed old Japanese guy like his dad.

Leonard Oka is a founding member, probably the founder, of NVMC.  He’s also the current, and probably lifetime president of the Maui Sons and Daughters of Nisei Veterans.  Oka’s father was a 442 veteran, but Oka points out, Hawai‘i boys also served in military intelligence, of course the 100th Battalion, and the 1399 Engineering Battalion.

Oka:  Like honor, humility, and they show gambatte, going forward or go for broke attitude they had.  That’s why they did good.  They didn’t have to think about it.  It was in their brain, in their heart, they just lived it.  I think that’s a key that needs to be passed forward.

Moto:  What I would say is the greatest challenge human beings encounter in their lifetime is purpose.  What am I supposed to do?  What am I supposed to be?  Sometimes people don’t ever quite know.  It’s a challenge.  What we’re trying to do is provide that sense of purpose.  When one identifies with and learns about the values of honesty, hard work, community, life begins to have a purpose, or could.

Arisumi:  Everybody had the same feeling when they went into war.  They wanted to show that we’re Japanese, but our heart is American.  Until we went into combat, people didn’t think much of the AJA’s.  but after the AJA’s did well, most of the attitudes of the people changed.

Why is the 442 memory so strong on Maui?

Arisumi:  The 442 is kinda strong on Maui because we have people like Leonard.  He’s the one that really keep the guys together.

Oka:  Another trait of the veterans. I always used to make fun, excuse the phrase, “hard head Japanese old men.” I think I’ve become that. So the persistence is ingrained in me.  If nothing else, I think that’s it, hard head.

Hiroshi Arisumi returned from the war and started a contracting business with his brother.  He has been a generous supporter of community causes over the years.  At a meeting recently, one Maui affordable housing advocate fondly recalled his first home, bought for $40,000 through Arisumi Brothers.

Deidre Tegarden
Credit Deidre Tegarden

Did you know ther is a National Go for Broke Day April 5th

Did you know there is a Go for Broke National Education Center?  

Deidre Tegarden, Executive Director of NVMC, says, “When the 100th Battalion met at the clubhouse in Honolulu in 1952, they decided to adopt as their motto, Continuing Service.  That manifested itself in many different ways on each of he islands but the overall message was continuing service fo the next generation.  How are we going to take what has happened to us and make it better for the next generation?”

Tegarden:  No matter what the opposition is, we can hold on to those values and make sure we conduct ourselves in such a way that would make these men feel assured that what they gave up for us  has been carried forward.

The radio story concludes with a song written and performed by Danny Carvalho.  Titled, "Nisei," it honors the memory of his grandfather.  Hear the entire piece in a HiSessions recording here.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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