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World War II soldiers honored

Plaque pays tribute to Placer Japanese-American 442nd regiment members
By: Megan Wood Gold Country News Service
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It was a day 67 years in the making. On Wednesday Placer County officials and members of the Japanese American Citizens League unveiled the first phase of a monument to honor the Placer County soldiers who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Despite threats of a downpour, more than 100 Placer County residents gathered in front of the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville to celebrate the monument and the four surviving 442nd soldiers from Placer County. “Remember, these were ordinary men who went out to do extraordinary things and in a time when their loyalty to their country was held in deep suspicion,” said the Rev. Maggie McNaught of First United Methodist Church in Loomis. Shigeo Yokote, Frank Kageta, Norman Kamada and Al Nitta were introduced and greeted by a standing ovation before helping to unveil the monument that was built in their honor. “We can’t measure their accomplishments on a plaque or repay their sacrifices with a ceremony,” said Assistant District Attorney Scott Owens. “But we can honor them by paying respect and tell those that remain, ‘Thank you.’” Designed by Yamasaki Landscape Architecture in Auburn, the monument includes a 36-foot compass inlaid in concrete to immortalize the members of the 442. The compass is meant to symbolize where the soldiers came from, where they fought and where they returned, said Tim Arndt, senior project manager for Placer County’s Parks division. The compass is framed by two granite boulders that hold bronze plaques dedicating the monument and describing the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The plaque states that in 1942, President Roosevelt allowed second-generation Japanese-American soldiers to enlist for military service, but in segregated units. By war’s end, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team had fought in some of the most dangerous battles and came home among the most decorated units in American history. The monument is located near Go For Broke Road, which Placer County supervisors named in 2007 in honor of the 442 motto. Looking at the monument, Kamada and Kageta reminisced about digging and hiding in foxholes together. Kamada, just 18 at the time, said Kageta looked out for him like a brother and the two continue to be good friends. While admiring the plaques honoring his service, Nitta said he was reminded of the internment camps and the pain he felt for his parents and family members during that time. “You look at this and you can’t help but get a little emotional,” Nitta said. “But I don’t cry, I have allergies.” At the center of the compass stands a third granite boulder, which is to be the site for the second phase of the monument scheduled to be completed early next year. In February, two life-sized bronze statues, crafted by local artist France Borka, will stand atop the boulder at the center of the compass. Borka said the statues depict 442 soldiers returning from their most heroic battle in the Vosges Mountains in France. Borka said the soldier statue would face the Santucci Justice Center’s American flag, “guiding them to what America stands for and what they fought so bravely for.” “It’s too much,” Kageta said. “I didn’t do those things to be a hero or to be recognized. I don’t think heroes set out to be heroes. I never gave what I did a second thought until today and I’m honored. ”