(Above: Harry Madokoro's grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles)
On July 25, 1944, Private First Class Harry Madokoro wrote this letter to his mother from the battlefield near Luciana, Italy:
"Not knowing how to pray, I have to depend on the family to do a lot of praying that all this strife ends soon so we may all go home and enjoy the simple things of life. Believe me, war is hell! It's not a pretty picture to see young kids who have not seen or begun to live life, all shot up or torn up by shrapnel, laying there, never to speak or laugh again.
"I only wish I could get those bigots, those hate mongers, those super-patriots, here to see them. Here at the front we're respected as fellow Americans fighting for the same cause. We're proud as hell to be in there pitching, doing our share of the work."
Those are the last words he ever wrote. A month later she received a telegram informing her that he had been killed in action. He was her only child.
Harry was killed when he volunteered for an unusually dangerous night patrol. He volunteered because many in his squad were young, inexperienced replacements.
When she got that telegram, Harry's mother was living behind barbed wire at the Poston Detention Camp II, Block 213-13-G, where she and Harry had been imprisoned ever since they had been rounded up, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, after Pearl Harbor.
Despite this outrageous treatment, Harry – and a lot of other boys – volunteered to fight for the country that had done this to them.
They joined the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team; and they fought so well, they were awarded more medals, man for man, than any other military unit in American history.
They were given the most dangerous jobs, including rescuing the Lost Batallion, 211 Texas National Guardsmen who were trapped behind German lines - which they did, but at the cost of more than 800 casualties.
They were fighting two wars: one against Nazi racism in Europe and another against American racism at home.
Every year on the third Saturday in May – Armed Forces Day - veterans of E Company, Second Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team gather in Oakland's Roberts Park for a brief but moving memorial service to honor their friends who, like Harry, made the ultimate sacrifice.
Over the years the ceremony has expanded to embrace the entire 442nd RCT, then all who died in World War II, and finally all casualties of all wars. This year's ceremony will take place on May 16 at noon, and the men of Easy Company invite you to join them.
Roberts Park is at 10579 Skyline Blvd., about a mile from the Joaquin Miller Road/Lincoln Avenue exit off Highway 13. Follow the signs for the Chabot Space & Science Center and take the first turnoff on the right to Roberts Park.
Tell the guard at the gate that you're there for the ceremony, and you'll be directed to the far parking lot. Then follow the sounds of patriotic music about 100 yards into the park to the site of the 442nd RCT Memorial Redwood Tree.
In today's era, when rock guitarists are called heroes and football players are called warriors, here's your chance to meet the real thing.