Recognizing Our Soldiers
Remarks by General Odierno
Thank you, General Bostick, for that kind introduction. It is my distinct privilege and honor to stand here today with these great Americans, who define the spirit, not only of the United States, but the spirit of our Army, and many years ago set an incredible example for all of us to follow with their selfless service. Before I go on further, I’d like to recognize a few folks in here: Ambassador Fujisaki, thank you so much for being here today. We appreciate your being here. Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, Eric Shinseki and also the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army, sir thank you so much for being here, for being a leader in our country. You set a great example for all of us to follow. Senator Inuoye, I want to thank you for all you do in your leadership role in the Senate. LTG retired Kicklighter, LTG retired Peterson, thank you for being here. All other General Officers, I appreciate so much your being here today. I want to specifically recognize the Sergeant Major of the Army, Ray Chandler — my right hand man. Every day, he goes out to ensure our Soldiers are fit, ready, and prepared to do whatever we ask of them. Thank you so much for being here. Medal of Honor winners Mr. Sakato and Mr. Miyamura, thank you so much for being here. Mr. Yamada and Ms. Sato-Yamazaki, the Chairmen of the DC Veterans, thank you so much for your efforts in bringing this all together. Honored Veterans, families, and friends, today we are here to honor and present the Bronze Star Medal to 40 incredibly brave Veterans of World War II. They were not only members of the Greatest Generation, but have a unique place in our Nation’s history, a history that is both tragic and an inspirational story of the American military experience.
From the shock of Pearl Harbor, and out of fear and prejudice, 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps. What is incredible to me is that many of them did not allow that grave injustice of the internment to stand in their way. They remained steadfast in their commitment to their country and volunteered to serve a Nation in combat, a selfless act of devotion. They served as Linguists, Military Intelligence, Infantrymen and Artillerymen in the 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Over 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in the War, and of those, over 13,000 served in the 442nd and earned over 9,000 Purple Hearts. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated unit in the Army’s history, earning over 18,000 individual medals, including: 21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 22 Legions of Merit, and over 4,000 Bronze Stars, not including the 40 we will present today.
In one legendary fight, where others failed, the 442nd fought their way through an incredibly complex situation and determined enemy to save the trapped Texas Battalion, which later became known as the “Lost Battalion.” The men from the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team might be small in stature, but they stand above their peers in determination, courage, and heart. Together they defined the ethos that we all live by today, “Never leave a fallen comrade.”
In addition to the 442nd, Japanese-Americans served in the Military Intelligence Service, helping the Army and Marines in the Pacific theater develop the actionable intelligence that even led to the raid that killed Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. After the defeat of Japan, 3,000 Japanese-American Linguists helped the US build a democratic Japan. Today, Japan is one of our strongest and most enduring Allies in the world.
In all, the 442nd and the Military Intelligence Service earned seven Presidential Unit Citations and one Distinguished Unit Citation. Their actions, along with other groups that faced discrimination, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, provided President Truman the moral standing to desegregate the Armed Forces of the United States. And today, diversity is the foundation of our strength, the strength of our Nation, the strength of our Armed Forces, and the strength of our Army, and you all are the foundation of that strength.
Our Nation is forever indebted for the service and sacrifice of our Japanese-American Veterans. Awarding the Bronze Star today is long overdue, and sadly, many are no longer with us to accept these awards in person.
The lesson of the Japanese-American experience is that fear and prejudice makes our country weaker, not stronger. Japanese-Americans have more than earned their place in our country, in our Army, and in our society — a melting pot to include African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and today, Arab-Americans. Through service to our Nation, they demonstrated their patriotism and earned the respect and admiration of all. They built a better future for their children and their children’s children. And for that, we’ll forever be indebted to you.
I’m proud to stand in front of you today as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army because your selfless service, commitment, resilience, and simple but powerful values like love of country has set the example for all of us who wear this uniform today. You make us proud to be Soldiers and part of this Profession that we endure.
I want to thank all the Japanese-American Combat Veterans and their Families who stand here today and all those here to honor those brave Veterans. I also want to thank all those who remain in harm’s way today defending the same freedoms for which these brave veterans are being awarded today. The strength of our Nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our Soldiers is our Families, and that is what makes us Army Strong. Thank you so much.