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Loomis veterans find validation through service

Respect earned
By: Jenifer Gee, Gold Country News Service
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Frank Kageta said he felt like he always had something to prove. The Japanese-American combat veteran had been confined in a U.S. internment camp following the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. When he had the chance to enlist in the Army during World War II, he grabbed it — feeling like he finally had the opportunity to show he deserved respect. “We were classified as threats to the country and it didn’t make us feel too good,” Kageta said. “We wanted to get in the service to prove we were just as good as anyone else.” Two other Japanese-American veterans – Al Nitta and Shigeo Yokote – joined Kageta as grand marshals for this year’s Auburn Area Veterans Day parade. “Go for Broke,” the theme of the commemoration, represents the 442nd Infantry’s contributions to the country during World War II, said Cynthia Haynes, event chairwoman. “These men signed up to go to war while their families were in internment camps,” Haynes said. “That is an ultimate sacrifice. I think that many people don’t realize the contributions the 442nd Infantry made to the success of World War II under very difficult circumstances.” The 442nd Infantry was a combat regiment comprised entirely of Japanese Americans, except for the officers, who were in concentration camps at the time they enlisted. Of the estimated 50 Placer County men who were part of the regiment, Kageta, Yokote and Nitta – all from Loomis – are the remaining survivors, Haynes said. Nitta said his war experience was also a way to feel validated in America. “Veterans Day means a lot to me because of my background,” Nitta said. “We were in a segregated unit. I was born in segregation and racial bias so I was glad to serve our country to let people know that I am a real American.” Kageta said he feels the opportunity to serve for his country has been one of his greatest honors. “To me, it’s heartwarming,” Kageta said. “We did have the opportunity to join the service and be classified as a citizen and I think that’s important. We didn’t want to be treated any other way.”