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Rocklin men receive Congressional Gold Medals

By: Gus Thomson, Gold Country News Service
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Two Rocklin men joined thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II for an overdue thank you from their country. Nearly seven decades after the war, Congress last week presented members of three Army units with the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor. In all, about 19,000 Japanese-Americans who served in the three units were honored at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 2: the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Frank Kageta and Norman Kamada, members of the unit commonly known as the “Go for Broke” regiment, traveled to the nation’s capital for the ceremony. Kageta, 91, a retired Placer County Water Agency employee, raised his family in Penryn and moved to Rocklin three years ago. He was accompanied by his son, Stuart Kageta, a Rocklin resident and Del Oro High School teacher and volleyball coach Norman Kamada of Rocklin was Kageta’s “fox hole buddy” while they served in Europe. “I don’t claim to have done something outstanding,” Kageta said. “I’m just another Japanese-American soldier who was in the service for his country.” After the war, Kageta received a Bronze Star, but said he’s most proud of the combat veteran medal. “In combat, you really meet your enemy,” he said. “That’s the important part.” Of the 1,250 people at the ceremony, about a quarter were members of the three units, who are now in their 80s and 90s. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were viewed with suspicion. Nearly 110,000 were sent to internment camps. Kageta’s family was sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, but Frank Kageta worked outside the camp holding various jobs. He volunteered to join the Army in 1944, along with thousands of other “Nisei,” or second-generation Japanese-Americans. Members of the 442nd experienced some of the most horrific fighting in Europe and became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. In just 10 months of combat, more than 700 were killed or listed as missing in action. The 442nd fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. President Harry Truman welcomed many of the Japanese-American soldiers home in 1946: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won,” he said. Stuart Kageta said the medal represents a validation of the stance Japanese-Americans took when they showed loyalty to the U.S. by joining the military. “Our family’s just super proud of those decisions he made,” Stuart Kageta said. “He paved the way for us as minorities to pursue whatever goals we have. They took the high road for future generations.” Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Adam Schiff, both Democratic lawmakers from California, co-sponsored the legislation to honor the Japanese-American soldiers. It was signed by the President last year. “You served our country despite being subjected to hurtful slurs and deep suspicions from many of your fellow citizens,” Boxer said. “While we can never repay the debt we owe you, we can and we must recognize your valor and your patriotism.” In Placer County, Japanese-American veterans have been honored as grand marshals at the 2008 Auburn Veterans Day parade, a monument at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville and the naming of the road to the center “Go For Broke Road.” Plans are also moving forward on a statue to honor the soldiers at the Roseville site. -- Joyia Emard and the Associated Press contributed to this story.