Veterans Day 2021 – Honoring Our Nisei Vets Through the Stamp

This Veterans Day, and every day, we honor ALL who have served in our military.

“I think it matters in proving your loyalty,” said Don Miyada, 96, of Westminster, California. “Some of the veterans I know, especially the older ones, were very strong on that. In fact, they felt that they were helping the younger kids, and others who came back alive, to have a better life.”

Miyada is one of the few remaining World War 2 American “Nisei” veterans still living. The word “Nisei” comes from the Japanese language, meaning “second generation,” or those American descendants of the immigrant generation from Japan. The Nisei Soldiers of the war were the 30,000 American men and women whose loyalty was doubted by the US government due only to their immigrant parents who were originally from Japan, the enemy nation at the time. The Nisei served with legendary distinction despite intense racial prejudice directed at them, their family members, and at the whole Japanese American community.

“You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won,” President Harry S. Truman declared to the Nisei Soldiers and members of the press in July 1946 at the Presidential Unit Citation Ceremony in Washington, DC. Over the years, presidents, lawmakers, and historians have increasingly recognized their amazing accomplishments.

The Nisei received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011, and they were collectively honored this year by the US Postal Service with the “Go For Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II” Forever commemorative postage stamp (pictured below). Men served mainly in the US Army’s 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. Women served mainly in the Women’s Army Corps, Cadet Nurse Corps, Army Nurse Corps, and in the MIS.

People across the nation are now actively buying the stamp, and using it with pride. Lyndy McGrody of Pasadena, California, and her fiance Daniel Jansen, decided to use the stamp for their wedding invitations. McGrody’s grandparents endured incarceration during the war at the Heart Mountain, Wyoming camp. “I am hoping the Go For Broke Stamp sparks conversations amongst others so more people can learn the history behind the stamp and all the other Japanese American stories it represents.”

The phrase ‘Go For Broke’ comes from Hawaiian slang, meaning to persevere with everything you’ve got, and the phrase was a Nisei battle cry. Go For Broke veterans, like all of our Nation’s beloved veterans of the war, are hard to find nowadays. Those who remain are in their late nineties with some now over 100 years old. Their numbers are dwindling.

Miyada was among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage whose Constitutional rights were unjustly removed and forced into concentration camps, with no due process, no proof that they broke any laws. “My parents lost everything. They lost the farm. They lost the store. They lost means of livelihood. They lost everything,” Miyada explained. He was drafted from the Poston, Arizona incarceration camp to serve as a replacement soldier in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion.

“I think by serving in the Armed Forces — 100th Battalion, 442nd, MIS, WAC, and other units — they showed that they were willing to fight for their country,” said Miyada. “And the fact that they did it so well, speaks very highly of them. MIS did a sterling job in their translation work. 442nd/100th Battalion set an enviable record in Europe being the most decorated unit for time of service. And so I think if the general population saw those figures, they would like to welcome these people as fellow citizens.”

When asked about the Go For Broke Stamp, Miyada expanded on its importance. “I think the stamp will be important. I think anything that brings out the fact that Nisei, despite discrimination and hardships imposed upon them by their government, were able to perform so notably in battle, I think, is a real credit to the Nisei Soldiers.”

The Go For Broke veterans have become a symbol of perseverance, of rising above racial prejudice, and of American patriotism.

Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, of Anna Maria, Florida, is using the stamp on her holiday greeting cards this year in honor of the memory of her late father, World War 2 US Army veteran, Captain Marty Higgins. Capt. Higgins was among the 211 surviving unit members of the Lost Battalion from 36th Texas Infantry who were rescued by the Nisei Soldiers in the Vosges Mountains of France. “I was in a long line at the post office and wasn’t sure if they had the Go For Broke stamp,” Higgins Abrunzo explained. “I asked a postal employee who was straightening out boxes for sale if they had the stamp. He said yes. The man behind me asked what the stamp commemorated. As I told him the story the entire line was all ears. Many questions followed and I was proud to share I had known many of these brave men and that they had rescued my father, Captain Marty Higgins, in the Lost Battalion. The stamp will be on all of my holiday cards.”

US Army “Go For Broke” veteran Don Miyada (100th Bn) – far right, with fellow vets Ralph Matsumoto (MIS) – left, and Yosh Nakamura (442nd RCT) – center, at the Go For Broke Stamp dedication in Los Angeles, California, in June 2021. Image courtesy of Mario Gershom Reyes.
People are using the Go For Broke Stamp across the nation. Lyndy McGrody and Daniel Jansen, of Pasadena, California, are using it for their wedding save-the-date announcements and invitations. Image courtesy of Lyndy McGrody.
President Harry S. Truman salutes the Nisei Soldiers in Washington, DC, in July 1946. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.