Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on Friday May 14, 2004 he spoke at the National Defense University in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. More than 200 people were in attendance and Congressman Faleomavaega received a standing ovation.
“The National Defense University is the premier center for joint professional military education and is under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “The University is located at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C. The National Defense University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.”
“Before WWII, each branch of the military offered its own program of study. After WWII, two joint schools were formed – the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. In 1976, those Colleges were brought into the National Defense University. Over the last decade, the university’s mission has grown significantly. It now provides the nation’s only joint military education but also conducts outreach program and serves as a primary research and policy development institution for the U.S. Department of Defense.”
“I am honored to have been asked to be the guest speaker for the National Defense University’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I especially thank SFC Norma Alofa Su’a-Washington, Transportation and Logistics Directorate, for inviting me to speak and I am proud of her accomplishments.”
“More than 200 people were in attendance at the event including LTC Thom Terwilliger, U.S. Air Force, and Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “As a Vietnam Veteran and a former member of the U.S. Army’s Reserve unit, known today as the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry Combat Group, I spoke about the contributions Asian Pacific Americans have made to this nation.”
“During WWII, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, the second highest medal given for heroism in combat, 560 Silver Stars, third highest medal, and 9,480 Purple Hearts, were awarded to the Japanese-American soldiers of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry Group. While I find it unusual and suspect that only one Medal of Honor was given, the 442nd Combat Group emerged as the most decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the United States Army.”
“I am proud to say that we can count the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye and the late, highly-respected Senator, Spark Matsunaga, of Hawaii, among those who distinguished themselves in battle as soldiers with the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry. It was while fighting in Europe that Senator Inouye lost his arm while engaged in battle against two German machine gun posts. As a result of his valor, Senator Inouye was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.”
“Four years ago, a Congressional mandate was issued calling for a review of the military records of these two combat units and I was privileged to attend the White House ceremony where President Clinton presented nineteen Congressional Medals of Honor to the Japanese-Americans who were members of 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry. Senator Inouye was one of the recipients of the Medal of Honor.”
“Sadly, when the patriotic survivors of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry returned to the United States after fighting in Europe, many were reunited with their parents, brothers and sisters who were locked-up behind barbed-wire fences, living in prison camps. If you will recall,” the Congressman said, “our national government had implemented a policy whereby over one-hundred thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced to live in what were called relocation camps – but actually more like prison or concentration camps. Their lands, homes and properties were confiscated without due process of law.”
“Secretary Mineta told that one of the interesting features of these prison camps was postings of machine gun nests all around the camp – and everyone was told that these machine guns were posted to protect them against rioters or whatever. But then Secretary Mineta observed – if these machine guns are posted to guard us, why is it that they are all directed inside the prison camp compound and not outside?”
“I submit that the wholesale and arbitrary abolishment of the constitutional rights of these loyal Japanese-Americans should forever serve as a reminder and testament that this must never be allowed to occur again. To those that say, well, that occurred decades ago, I say as Asian Pacific Americans we must continue to be vigilant in guarding against such racism today.”
“When I envision America, I don’t see a melting pot designed to reduce and remove racial differences. The America I see is a brilliant rainbow – a rainbow of ethnicities and cultures, with each ethnic group proudly contributing in its own distinctive and unique way – making America better for now and generations to come,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Asian-Pacific Americans wish to find a just and equitable place in our society that will allow them – like all Americans – to grow, to succeed, to achieve and to contribute to the advancement of this great nation.”
“This is why I believe we should ask ourselves -- what is America all about? I think it could not have been said better than on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the summer of 1963 when an African-American minister named Martin Luther King Jr. poured out his heart and soul to every American who could bear his voice, when he uttered these words --
‘I have a dream. My dream is that one day my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“This is what I believe America is all about and I am hopeful that as we join together to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage month we will be proud of who we are and what we stand for and for the contributions we have made to our great nation. Again, I thank SFC Norma Washington and the National Defense University for inviting me to be their guest speaker.”
“I would also like to pay special tribute to our veterans and our current service men and women. I thank them for their service to our country and I continue to pray for those who are now facing harm’s way. This Memorial Day, let us be united in our support for our troops. Let us also remember the sacrifices made by veterans past and present who have fought the good fight so that you and I may live in peace. May we keep them in our prayers and may God bless America,” the Congressman concluded.