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Coalition raising funds for WWII vets’ medal trip to D.C.

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A veterans group has launched a fundraising campaign to help Japanese-American veterans of World War II travel to Washington, D.C., for a ceremony awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal.

Christine Sato-Yamazaki, chairwoman of a coalition of 25 Japanese-American veteran and civic organizations called the National Veterans Network, said yesterday the group wants to minimize expenses for the veterans and ensure they enjoy a "first-class celebration" in the nation’s capital.

The group plans to hold a gala dinner and a memorial service around the time the medal is awarded.

So far, 370 veterans from 30 states have registered to go, Sato-Yamazaki said. The number includes 101 veterans from Hawaii.

The youngest of the veterans are in their mid-80s. Many are in their 90s.

Congress voted last year to award the medal collectively to those who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service during the war. President Barack Obama signed the legislation shortly afterward.

The medal is due to be presented this year at a ceremony hosted by House Speaker John Boehner. The House has yet to set a date for the event.

The veterans volunteered to go to war even though they were branded "enemy aliens" and rendered ineligible for the draft. Some, particularly those from the mainland, enlisted while their families were detained in internment camps.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which absorbed the 100th Infantry Battalion, saw some of the most brutal fighting in the war. conflict, it had become the most highly decorated military unit in U.S. history for its size and length of service.

The National Veterans Network plans to organize a memorial service at the World War II memorial in Washington both for those who died in the line of duty and those who have died since the war.

Information on donating can be found at www.na­tionalveteransnetwork.com.

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