Wanted: Local veterans for Library of Congress project

By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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The wartime memories of Shigeo Yokote, of Loomis, are exactly what the Veterans History Project aims to preserve. Since 2000, the Library of Congress American Folklife Center has been collecting the memories, accounts and documents of veterans from World War I through current conflicts through its Veterans History Project. War veterans and civilians who served in support of them are interviewed on videotape so that they can share their stories with current and future generations. Loomis resident Michael Neal, who has been volunteering with a Sacramento group that conducts the interviews, would like to bring the project to Loomis to make it easier for veterans from Loomis and Penryn and surrounding communities to be interviewed. “It’s important to everyone,” Neal said, “to embody the experiences undergone by these men and women who defended and served the country in time of war.” Neal, who has lived in Loomis since 1982, said he got involved in the Veterans History project through his interest in World War II. He also believes there are lessons to be learned from wars. “It goes back to that old adage of knowledge of history,” he said, that “if you don’t have it you’re doomed to repeat it. “We need to be cognizant of these experiences and remember the individuals themselves … and prevent war from occurring again.” Neal said it’s especially important to interview World War II veterans, as their number is dwindling by the hundreds every day. The story that Yokote, born in Loomis in 1916, plans to tell is about joining the Army in January 1942, just one month after the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. It was also two months before his family and other Americans of Japanese heritage from the Loomis Basin and throughout the West were evacuated, leaving behind their homes, property and belongings, and forced to live in interment camps. “There are some of us,” said Yokote, “who have a feeling of utter disbelief that our families were put in interment camps.” Because Yokote was part of the service sector of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, he feels his story differs from those who were in actual combat. “People in the service sector had an important part in the war effort,” he said. “Somebody had to support them … We were told to be ready for any emergency, even to replacing others (soldiers) whether combat or service related.” Yokote has always been a camera buff; the photographs he has of fellow servicemen in France and Italy, as well as with families they got to know, will be important additions to the project’s archives. Frank Kageta, also a native of Loomis and a World War II veteran who served with Yokote in the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, said the project is very worthwhile. “It’s an honor just be interviewed,” Kageta said. Vietnam war veteran and Loomis resident Fuzzy Jarnagin is commander of American Legion John A. Stacker Post No. 775. The post’s 68 members include Yokote and Fujita and their fellow 442nd veterans Al Nitta, as well as veterans from all wars. He’s enthused about the project. “Anything that I can do to keep the memory of the veterans alive, it’s great,” Jarnagin said. Neal said in order to get the Veterans History Project started in Loomis, he will need a digital video camera, discs and a location to hold the interviews. To make a donation, or to schedule an interview, call Neal at 652-5225. The interviews will be permanently archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and all participating veterans receive a free