When I was growing up in Southern California, our family would gather every Memorial Day. I didn’t understand until much later why it was such a big deal to us. Lots of families have grandparents who lived through World War II. But my family, being Japanese-American, had a particularly complicated experience during the war.
My father was just a toddler when the war broke out. But soon after Pearl Harbor, American suspicion towards anyone Japanese (even if they were born and raised in America) was so high that the government decided to intern people of Japanese descent in internment camps. My dad’s family lost everything when they were forcibly imprisoned by the American government. But even after they went through all that, his uncles volunteered to fight for the US. One of them, Kaz Masuda pictured above, died while charging a German machine gun nest in order to give his men a chance to escape. He was 25 years old.
So every year, we would gather to honor our relatives who fought in the wars. They intrinsically understood how deeply flawed America could be, but still chose to risk their lives defending it. It’s something worth remembering.