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Nisei Impact: Honolulu Star-Advertiser youth storytelling project honors Hawaii’s Japanese American World War II veterans

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Nisei Impact youth journalism program presented by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Report for America and Nisei Veterans Legacy. Pictured at the ceremony honoring high school students and subjects who participated in the project. Pictured in the front row: World War II veterans Edward Ikuma, 100th Infantry Battalion and Kenji Ego, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Back row from left to right: Honolulu Star-Advertiser ethnic and cultural affairs reporter Jayna Omaye, Punahou School student L. Kensington Ono, Honolulu Star-Advertiser managing editor Marsha McFadden, Moanalua High School student Daria Stapolsky, Kalani High School student Stephanie Yeung, Nisei Veterans Legacy president Lynn Heirakuji. Not present are Kalani High School student Marisa Fujimoto and McKinley High School student Shane Kaneshiro.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Nisei Impact youth journalism program presented by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Report for America and Nisei Veterans Legacy. Pictured at the ceremony honoring high school students and subjects who participated in the project. Pictured in the front row: World War II veterans Edward Ikuma, 100th Infantry Battalion and Kenji Ego, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Back row from left to right: Honolulu Star-Advertiser ethnic and cultural affairs reporter Jayna Omaye, Punahou School student L. Kensington Ono, Honolulu Star-Advertiser managing editor Marsha McFadden, Moanalua High School student Daria Stapolsky, Kalani High School student Stephanie Yeung, Nisei Veterans Legacy president Lynn Heirakuji. Not present are Kalani High School student Marisa Fujimoto and McKinley High School student Shane Kaneshiro.

  • COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY
                                Hideo Nimori served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s Service Company.

    COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY

    Hideo Nimori served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s Service Company.

  • COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY
                                Jayna Omaye and her grandparents, Hideo and Dorothy Nimori, at her sixth-grade graduation ceremony.

    COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY

    Jayna Omaye and her grandparents, Hideo and Dorothy Nimori, at her sixth-grade graduation ceremony.

  • COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY
                                Hideo Nimori with some of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. From left to right: Dallas, Jayna and Kaiya.

    COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY

    Hideo Nimori with some of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. From left to right: Dallas, Jayna and Kaiya.

Hideo Nimori served in the revered 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

To the rest of the world, he was a decorated second-­generation Japanese American, or nisei, soldier, who enlisted because he hoped his experiences during World War II would yield more opportunities when he returned home.

But to me and my cousins, he was also Grandpa.

 

COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY
Jayna Omaye with her grandpa, Hideo Nimori, who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

He was the grandpa who was always smiling and ready to crack a joke, often at his own expense or to make light of my grandma’s yelling. He was the grandpa who would always lose at board games so that we would win, even if that meant getting scoldings from my mom and aunty afterward. He was the grandpa who drove us around during summer breaks in his clunky brown van, while laughing off my grandma’s brutal backseat driving comments. He was the grandpa who was always there for every birthday, anniversary, graduation and family gathering. And he was the grandpa who filled my childhood with so much love.

It’s been 10 years since he died, but my family and I still laugh and reminisce about all of the happy memories we had with him.

 

COURTESY NIMORI FAMILY
Hideo and Dorothy Nimori (middle) with their grandchildren and great grandchildren. From left to right: Gwen, Brent, Dallas, Kaiya and Jayna.

Our story resonates with many in the islands, where nisei veterans are part of many families. After the war ended, many of them attended college through the GI Bill, worked to better their communities and helped to change Hawaii’s landscape to make it more inclusive of those who faced prejudice. Their serv­ice extended far beyond the battlefield.

The Nisei Impact youth storytelling project was launched in December to help share the stories of Hawaii’s nisei veterans, and as part of my service with Report for America, a national organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under­covered issues and communities.

The Honolulu Star- Advertiser is partnering with the nonprofit Nisei Veterans Legacy, which works to “preserve, perpetuate and share” the legacy of Americans of Japanese Ancestry who served in the U.S. armed forces in World War II.

Five high school students were chosen for the inaugural program, meeting over three months to report on the veterans they chose to write about. At weekly meetings the students learned about journalism, writing, reporting, interviewing and more. Most had no journalism experience, but all of the students were passionate about storytelling and learning more about their nisei veteran.

 

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / APRIL 5
Nisei Impact youth journalism program presented by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Report for America and Nisei Veterans Legacy. Pictured at the ceremony honoring high school students who participated in the project is from left to right: Honolulu Star-Advertiser ethnic and cultural affairs reporter Jayna Omaye, Moanalua High School student Daria Stapolsky, Punahou School student L. Kensington Ono, Kalani High School student Stephanie Yeung, and Nisei Veterans Legacy president Lynn Heirakuji on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Not present are Kalani High School student Marisa Fujimoto and McKinley High School student Shane Kaneshiro.

The project became a reality with support from Honolulu Star-Advertiser President and Publisher Dennis Francis, editors, co-workers and the hard- working volunteers at the Nisei Veterans Legacy, particularly president Lynn Heirakuji.

The 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team are recognized as among the most highly decorated for size and length of service in U.S. military history. In 2011, they, along with Japanese American soldiers in the Military Intelligence Service, who translated and intercepted government documents, were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.

 

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / APRIL 5
The “Go for Broke” motto is stitched onto the hat of World War II veteran Kenji Ego who served with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

At the end of March, each student finished writing a profile about a nisei veteran who served. Two of the students even had an opportunity to write about a nisei veteran in their own family, learning more about their own history and heritage.

Their stories of life, hardship, bravery and resilience will be published daily beginning Monday.

 


Jayna Omaye covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national serv­ice organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under­covered issues and communities.


NISEI STORIES

The inaugural Nisei Impact program is a partnership between the Star-Advertiser and the nonprofit Nisei Veterans Legacy. Each day this week, the Star-Advertiser published a story, written by a high school student, about the nisei veterans in our families and communities.

Ohana recalls family member as true American who fought heroically in World War II

Letters and a few photos are the only traces left of Gerome Mitsuo Hirata. These mementos of a true American hero are cherished by family members and provide a link for younger generations. Profile by L. Kensington Ono.

CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / APRIL 5

 


 

World War II veteran leaves behind legacy of bravery and dedication

After his years of service, Kenneth Yukio Fujimoto came out of the war earning a Bronze Star Medal, along with freedom and respect to last for the rest of his life. Profile by Marisa Fujimoto.

COURTESY MARISA AND DAVID FUJIMOTO

 


 

World War II veteran, 99, recounts experience that earned his first Purple Heart distinction

Jack Seitoku Nakamura will never forget the rescue of the Lost Battalion, which manifested true valor and honor. Profile by Shane Kaneshiro.

COURTESY LISA KANESHIRO

 


 

Veteran, 98, recalls joining famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team after Pearl Harbor attack

At 98 years old, Kenji Ego’s legacy during the war was something to be commended. His bravery is what kept him moving forward. Profile by Stephanie Yeung.

STEPHANIE YEUNG / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

 


 

World War II veteran, 103, continues serving community beyond the battlefield

Now 103, Edward Ikuma is one of the veterans who helped found Club 100 almost 70 years ago. Profile by Daria Stapolsky.

COURTESY JOAN NAGUWA
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