Japanese American veteran receives nation’s highest civilian honor at Menlo Park VA

by Kerri Childress on February 3, 2011

More than 100 people witnessed a historic event today involving a soldier from a historic WWII unit – the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of its size from WWII.

Mr. Robert Masami Iso, 92, gallantly served in the Army and received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts from his WWII service. Today he received our country’s highest civilian commendation, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Family, friends and VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) employees attended the presentation held at the VA Menlo Park division Community Living Center (nursing home).  Mr. Iso was the first of his 442nd unit to receive the award; the others will receive their medals in August in Washington, DC.

Mr. Iso’s VA doctor, Eric Strong, heard about the upcoming award and was concerned about Mr. Iso’s health.  He alerted staff to set things in motion and present the award as soon as possible.  Lawson Sakai, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, presented the award. Although Mr. Iso was not able to speak, it was evident that he was aware the ceremony was to honor his military service.

“‘Alien Enemies’ – what men of the 442nd were called – were initially interned in 10 camps around the country,” said Retired Air Force Colonel Brian Shiroyama, who was born in an Internment Camp.  “Now they are receiving one of our highest honors, in line with such heroes as George Washington, John Paul Jones, The Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.”

Kerri Childress is the Director of Communications and Congressional Liaison of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System

Photo courtesy of VA Palo Alto Health Care System

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