SAN JOSE, Calif. (June 19, 2015) — Former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi were the featured speakers at the Congressional Gold Medal Dinner organized by the National Veterans Network (NVN) in support the Congressional Gold Medal Digital Exhibition, and held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, with 500 in attendance.
Secretary Shinseki, a long-time advocate for veterans, was formally thanked for his public service by Lawson Sakai, 442nd RCT, who spoke on behalf of his Nisei comrades and 18 Nisei World War II veterans in attendance. This was followed by a salute from all veterans in the audience led by retired Lt. Col. Jerry Nakashima. In his remarks, Secretary Shinseki accepted the thank you from the veterans as a means to pay tribute to the entire Nisei generation of Japanese Americans who served during the war. Yamaguchi, who won her Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating in 1992, recounted the story of her grandfather, George A. Doi, who served with great distinction in a non-segregated U.S. Army unit during the war.
Christine Sato-Yamazaki, NVN Executive Director, presented updates on the Congressional Gold Medal Digital Exhibition that is being developed in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The digital exhibit is set to be unveiled in 2016 as the educational counterpart to the gold medal that is presently on display at the National Museum of American History’s Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition. While the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded collectively in November 2011 to the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and members of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), the digital exhibition encompasses the diverse service of over 31,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
The digital exhibition is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grants Program, Cole Chemical and AARP. The dinner supports the project’s matching grant.
Secretary Shinseki was introduced by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. Secretary Mineta, who also served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, was a member of Congress for 20 years and former San Jose mayor. He shared stories of his older brother, Dr. Albert Mineta, who served as a Nisei linguist in the Japan Occupation.
Emcee for the event was Michael Inouye of NBC Bay Area. Smithsonian Board Member Robert Johnson welcomed the guests representing the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. G. Yamazawa presented a moving presentation of slam poetry based on his father and grandmother. Co-chairs for the dinner were Floyd Mori, Mari Watanabe, and Michael Yaguchi. Reiko Iwanaga and Pamela Dunnett of At Your Request served on the dinner committee.
National Sponsors for the dinner were AARP and Cole Chemical. Gold Sponsors included the Japanese American Veterans Association, Mae Nakamoto and Marty Herbert in honor of Robert Nakamoto and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation. The VIP Reception Sponsor was PG&E. Silver Sponsors were: Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, the Japanese American National Museum, Secretary and Mrs. Norman Mineta, Tomio Moriguchi/Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee, Larry and Anne Oda, San Jose JACL, Yoshihiro Uchida, and Tom and Carol Yuki. Media Sponsor was NBC Bay Area, and the Raffle Sponsor was Southwest Airlines. The Entertainment Sponsor was Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS). There were also a number of Table Sponsors representing local and national organizations nationwide.
Serving on the NVN Advisory Board are: Christine Sato-Yamazaki, Donna Cole, Howard Hieshima, Ed Kubo, Lynn Longfellow, Floyd Mori, Erick Soriano, Esq., Maj. General Tony Taguba, US Army (Ret), Bill Takakoshi, Col. Yuzo Tokita USAF (Ret), Rosalyn Tonai, Mari Watanabe, and Lt. Col. Michael J. Yaguchi, USAF (Ret).
The dinner successfully reached its funding goal for the digital exhibition, but to ensure the successful completion of the project and its future success, additional support is welcomed. Donations to support the maintenance and accompanying national programs for the Congressional Gold Medal digital exhibition are still being sought. For further information or to donate, please visit the website: www.nationalveteransnetwork.com or email at [email protected]
Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and her husband Bret Hedican, Secretary Norman and Mrs. Deni Mineta and Secretary Eric Shinseki