Elderly veteran sets example for all of us on voting
Not long ago, a photograph involving voting went “viral” in the social media outlets.
The photo was of a 93-year-old Army veteran in Hawaii who was giving his daughter instructions from his bed about how to mark his absentee ballot for the election on Tuesday. He was dying of liver cancer and was under hospice care.
His daughter was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying that her father had been eagerly awaiting the ballot to arrive in the mail and immediately wanted to fill it out when it came a couple of weeks ago. He was determined to vote for the last time.
When I read the story, I noted that Frank Tanabe was one of a group of very remarkable men. He was a Japanese-American who had been interned in a detention center at the beginning of World War II along with about 110,000 other Japanese-Americans.
It was an extraordinary violation of both human rights and American principles of freedom. The young, the old and everyone in between who had a Japanese background and lived near the West Coast, or in Hawaii in some cases, were rounded up and imprisoned after the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan without any proof of disloyalty and no due process.
A majority of those interned were American citizens. One of America's more beloved presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, issued the order and the U.S. Supreme Court supported it. Americans allowed fear to overrule fundamental rights.
Few condemned the action at the time and some shamefully still defend it. But President Ronald Reagan apologized for the nation in 1988 and signed a reparations law which paid more than 80,000 former internees still living. The law said they were victims of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
The remarkable thing is that most of the internees remained loyal to this country and their sons voluntarily joined the Army to fight in the European theater of the war — despite what had been done to them and their families!
Tanabe was one of those, having been part of the Military Intelligence Service. Many others joined two combat units that were made up almost entirely of Japanese-Americans. These units — the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — were among the most decorated units in World War II and were involved in heavy fighting. Members of the units were awarded thousands of Purple Hearts and 21 Medals of Honor, and also received presidential and congressional honors.
Tanabe's grandson told Associated Press his service was even more remarkable because the Tanabe family's business was burned down after Pearl Harbor, his family interned and he was pulled from college and never able to finish his college education.
I worked in Hawaii for a number of years and knew some of these individuals who had gone off to fight. They were humble men who seldom talked about the war except to say they served. They were honorable and respected. They were proud to be Americans.
Isn't that remarkable considering how this nation had dishonored Japanese-American internees?
I wish all of us were as determined to vote as Frank Tanabe. But, unfortunately, many individuals will not bother to cast a ballot Tuesday, even though it is easy to do so.
Not long after Tanabe's determined effort to cast his last vote, he died. That means his vote probably will not be officially counted by Hawaii election officials. The law says your vote is invalid if you die before it is counted.
What a shame. I wonder what he would think of those who can vote, but don't.
Terry Ross is director of the Yuma Sun's News and Information Center. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: 539-6870.