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Memorial Day 2013

On Memorial Day, I always enjoy seeing Grand Army of the Republic Park on Capitol Hill filled with flags.IMG_1243

Ashamedly, viewing the flag filled park has been my only acknowledgement of Memorial Day. The holiday was just that for me…another holiday to relax and enjoy a long weekend.

GAR park is just behind my house and on the north end of Lakeview Cemetery, a beautiful expanse and frequent Seattle tourist stop to visit Bruce Lee’s burial site. This past Memorial Day, I was passing GAR park when I noticed a number of cars parked along the road and a gentleman directing traffic and assisting the parking process. My curiosity was peeked.  I had never attended a Memorial Day service.  Seeing a few older men walking into the cemetery wearing military caps made me realize it was time I properly paid my respects.

I quickly grabbed my camera and an umbrella before following a few people into the large cemetery.   I discovered a green awning shielding guests from the downpour and just off to the right laid beautiful floral wreaths.

IMG_1223IMG_1219I soon learned I had stumbled upon the Nisei Veterans Committee 68th Annual Memorial Day Service…literally, in my own backyard.  With the rain pouring down, I was riveted by the scene.  Seeing the elderly, Asian men approach, greet others and take shelter under the awning or a neighboring umbrella…the serenity and respect filling the cemetery was palpable.  There were a few veterans carrying American flag umbrellas…I couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures.


Lip Mar, Terry Nicholas & Dick Lew Kay, Cathay Post 186 Veterans

A local boy scout troop opened the ceremony with a posting of colors, followed by the pledge of allegiance and national anthem.

IMG_1230Seeing these veterans salute the flag filled me with gratitude for their service and for the freedoms I often take for granted.  Nisei soldiers fought for our country while their families were living in internment camps.  It is difficult to imagine the strength of these men, not only to have fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, but doing so, knowing the country you are giving your life to defend has taken away the rights and all possessions of your family members.

Congressman Adam Smith (US Rep of WA 9th District) honored all men and women who lost their lives while defending our country, but the segment of his speech (I made unsuccessful attempts to get from his office so I would not misquote him) that resonated with me the most was about discrimination.  He questioned if discrimination is part of human nature and noted how devastating it is to our society.  He said discrimination keeps some of the greatest gifts and talents down and this is a great loss for our society.  He said the Nisei soldiers are an incredible and unforgettable example of how, because of the strength and character of young Japanese-American men to push beyond the overt discrimination from the US government and its citizens, our country benefited from some of the strongest, most fearless soldiers defending this land.

I continue to be astounded by how much learning I experience in my own backyard!  Thank you to the Nisei Veterans Committee for hosting the Memorial Day Service.  I will be back for the 69th Annual service next year.


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