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Veterans center hosting a must-see exhibit

By Staff | Jul 2, 2015

The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center is currently telling the story of incredible heroes: soldiers who defined courage and grit during some of the fiercest fighting during World War II.

An exhibit featuring the 18 recent recipients of France’s Legion of Honor Medal is on display at the 665 Kahului Beach Road center through Aug. 15. It is free and open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Donations are graciously accepted.

The 18 men received France’s highest honorific medal in January for their efforts toward liberating France from German occupation during World War II.

Featured are biographies and photographs of the honorees, as well as descriptions of the battles in which the men participated as they fought to liberate France.

This includes the famous Rescue of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains, for which the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations.

The exhibit is cosponsored by Maui’s Sons and Daughters of Nisei Veterans and the center. One of the cochairs for the exhibit is Howard Ikeda, son of Takeo “Ike” Ikeda, one of the Legion of Honor awardees.

“After reading veterans’ biographies and war articles, I have a greater understanding of what they went through in France,” Ikeda said.

“They sacrificed their lives and fought with courage in many battles to bring freedom to the people of France. This exhibit has given me the opportunity to share the veterans’ stories and experiences on the war in France.”

Kyle Watanabe, David Fukuda and Debra Lumpkins also helped stage this important exhibit.

Residents and visitors can also learn about Operation Dragoon, the airborne invasion in southern France of August 1944.

The 442nd Antitank Company took to the air in C41 gliders to support this mission. On display in the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center are models of the gliders and a piece of canvas from a glider skin.

The canvas came from the glider that carried a soldier from Maui, Edwin Kokubun, who donated the souvenir the NVMC archives.

Sadly, Masanobu Sakuma, Maui’s last survivor of this glider operation, passed away earlier this year. He was among the Legion of Honor recipients.

Ikeda contacted all of the honored veterans and their families in an effort to gather photographs and other memorabilia for the exhibit.

“The families were very supportive and cooperative by providing information needed for the exhibit,” Ikeda said. “It has been a rewarding experience getting to know each family.”

Co-Chair David Fukuda, who worked with the veterans in filing out the applications, shared, “It was a great honor for me to work with each one of these veterans. Their stories are individually and collectively remarkable lessons in courage, patriotism, humility and compassion.”

This exhibit is the fourth that the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center has featured over the last two years.

The events are open to the public and free of charge, fulfilling the center’s mission of perpetuating the legacy of the Nisei soldiers of World War II and their service to the community.

For more information, contact the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center at 244-6862.