WAILUKU - Some of Maui's few remaining World War II nisei veterans gathered in Wailuku on Sunday afternoon with family and friends for an annual memorial to remember Maui's fallen soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The service is held on the Sunday closest to Sept. 29 - the day in 1943 when Sgt. Shigeo "Joe" Takata died in Italy as the first 100th Battalion soldier to be killed in action.
The nonprofit Maui's Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans hosted the service at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Wailuku, where large displays held photos of the dozens of fallen nisei, or second-generation Japanese-American soldiers, from Maui. About 75 people attended.
The service included a floral tribute, in which single carnation, protea and other blossoms were placed in vases as each of the names of the fallen Maui nisei soldiers were read.
"We're very proud of you and your fallen comrades . . . We owe much to you and the fallen," Janna Hoehn, the event's guest speaker, told the audience. "But how do you begin to repay one for sacrifices of war? By remembering and paying respect to all the brave men of the 100th and 442nd who made the supreme sacrifice."
Hoehn is a volunteer with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., known as The Wall. The memorial contains more than 58,000 names, including 276 from Hawaii, who were killed in action.
Hoehn has been raising funds to help establish the Education Center at The Wall, which will include photographs and stories of all the fallen troops.
She said that she spent six months collecting photos of all 42 service members from Maui County who died in Vietnam. She created a display of the 42 photos and shared it over the weekend at a booth at the Maui Fair.
Hoehn said work will start next month on building the education center at the National Mall in Washington and is expected to be completed in two years.
"While it's a different war, the more I listened to Janna, her message to people is that we cannot forget," Leonard Oka, vice president of Maui's Sons and Daughters, said of the decision to invite Hoehn as the event's guest speaker. "We always got to remember that we cannot forget the fallen."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.