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George "Joe" Sakato, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe during World War II, pays homage to his fellow fallen soldiers during the 64th annual community Memorial Day service on May 31 at the Nisei War Memorial on the Fairmount Cemetary in Denver. (Photo by Joe Nguyen/AsiaXpress.com)


Memorial Day service honors fallen Japanese-American soldiers in Denver

64th annual community Memorial Day service honors memories at Nisei War Memorial in Denver

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Joe Nguyen/AsiaXpress.com

A man places a flower on the Nisei War Memorial during the 64th annual community Memorial Day service on May 31 at Fairmount Cemetary in Denver

DENVER – At the end of an hour-long ceremony, George "Joe" Sakato walked up to the Nisei War Memorial and looked at the names engraved in stone.


A private during World War II in the 442nd Infantry – a predominantly Japanese-American unit who fought in Europe – Sakato stopped at a name, paused and brought his hand to his head. It was a salute to a fallen soldier. A salute to a fallen friend who died next to him in battle.


"I wear this not for being a hero," Sakato said, holding his Congressional Medal of Honor, "it's for the guys who didn't come home."


The Nisei Veterans' Heritage Foundation and the Mile-Hi Japanese American Citizens League hosted the annual community Memorial Day service on May 31 at the Nisei War Memorial on Fairmount Cemetary.


For 64 years, the Nisei Veterans' Heritage Foundation has honored Japanese-American soldiers from Colorado who have died in war. In the past few years, they have partnered with the Mile-Hi JACL in order to continue the memorial's legacy for future generations.


"It's not just for the Japanese American younger kids, but for the neighborhood," Mile-Hi JACL board member Brian Matsumoto said. "Just spreading the word so people get some more perspective. We're at a point now where they do tours here, but they don't know anything about the memorial."


Matsumoto said he plans on helping create something for tour guides to use this year. But most importantly, he said, he wants to pass on the views of Japanese-American soldiers who went to war in World War II when their families were imprisoned in internment camps back home.


"The most important thing with the whole war memorial is the potential of sharing the perspective that comes from the previous generations," he said. "It's not only that they gave their loyalty to the country, but the perspective that they were loyal and they fought in spite of the adversity and unfairness of it all.


"They kept trudging through."

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