Secretary Mineta, Consul General Yoichiro Yamada, NVC Commander Walt Tanimoto, Honored Veterans, family and friends, good morning. On behalf of the current Soldiers of the 100th BN/442d IN Regiment with duty stations on Oahu, the Big Island of Hawaii, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa, Aloha, Hafa Adai, and Talofa.
I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to let me be a part of today’s Veterans Day ceremony for the NVC. Thank you to the NVC Commander, Walt Tanimoto, and the entire Nisei Veterans Committee for allowing me the opportunity to be here this morning. I stand here today, humbled by this opportunity. To stand amongst some of our greatest heroes is an honor I will never forget.
My name is Jerry Walden, and I am the Operations Sergeant Major of the 100th BN/442d IN RGT. I joined the Army at the age of 17, attended Basic training in Ft Benning Georgia, and became an 11B Infantryman. Some of my military assignments include time in the 196th Infantry Training Brigade, Joint Interagency Task Force-West, supporting United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). I have held positions such as Infantry Platoon Sergeant, Senior Infantry Advisor, Senior Operations NCO, and my current Operations Sergeant Major position.
I come from a proud family lineage of service to this country. In my time of service, I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. My younger sister served with the 101st Airborne and deployed to Afghanistan. My father, who served over 20 years in the U.S. Army, and his brother, my uncle, both served in Vietnam. My father was wounded in combat there. I can remember my father constantly reminding us as small children to not forget how our family had served. He would tell us stories of how my great grandfather Guy Hartwell Draper, was in the war in France in 1918 when the armistice went into effect. It was his 26th birthday, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Even though young, those moments and stories were so impressionable to me, that they had direct influence on me to want to do the same to serve my country.
I can distinctly remember the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and being notified by my unit as to what was the current situation. I remember turning on the television, watching the events unfold, feeling anger that this was happening. I was waiting for the word to prepare to go to war with an unseen enemy. My birthday is September 12th, so obviously I didn’t celebrate my birthday that year, for I knew things in the world were forever changed.
I and members of the current 100th BN 442d Infantry Regiment just recently attended the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, in France, to include the rescuing of the Lost Battalion, the 1st BN of the 141st “Alamo” Regiment, 36th Division. This was my second time to visit the Vosges mountains where the 100th and 442nd who had combined by the time they started the assault on the Germans in early October 1944. It was so surreal even the second time there to see where the Nisei soldiers fought hard, intense battles with the Germans to liberate the towns and rescue the Lost battalion. Even though overgrown with foliage and moss, the foxholes and battle sites still remain. Seeing bullet pock marks in the old structures within the towns are proof of the ferocity of battle the Nisei soldiers faced.
The town’s people were thankful even to this day for our presence there; however, the thanks are not for my soldiers, but for the heroes who fought and those heroes who died there and remain in places such as the Epinal American Cemetery. We had the privilege and honor to assist family members of those who are buried there with a ceremony of remembrance. These family members traveled thousands of miles to honor their loved ones in the cemetery.
As the longest current serving member of the 100th BN 44d IN Regiment, serving over 20 years in the BN, I make it my purpose in life to ensure our soldiers understand what it means to wear the patch, what it stands for, and what “Go For Broke” means. The heroes that served before us, we have an obligation to carry their legacy, tell their stories, and understand the sacrifices they made on the behalf of the Nation and their families. For the men that came before me, I will continue the fight and will always Go For Broke.
Of course, on this special day, I cannot end without honoring our Nisei veterans. Those who not only faced adversity and tyranny in war but adversity on the Homefront as well. But that didn’t stop them from volunteering to prove that they were true Americans. The Nisei soldiers earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts during their service in Europe. 719 Nisei men made the ultimate sacrifice and were killed in action. The 100th/442nd suffered the highest combat casualty rate of any unit in World War II. There was a replacement rate of 314%.
The Nisei were awarded 18,143 individual decorations for bravery, including: 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses; 1 Distinguished Service Medal; 588 Silver Stars; 22 Legion of Merit medals; 19 Soldier’s Medals; 5,200 Bronze Stars and 14 Croix de Guerre, among many other decorations. That record remains today. The 100/442 also received an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations.
When the Nisei came home from the war, President Truman had a special White House ceremony for them. It was the only time that the President of the United States had a ceremony at the White House for a unit as small as a battalion. It was raining that morning in Washington, and Truman’s aide said, “Let’s cancel the ceremony.” Truman said to his aide, “After what those boys have been through, I can stand a little rain.” He said to the Nisei, bearing their regimental standard with the motto of “Go for Broke,” “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to tell you what you have done for this country. You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice and you won. You have made the Constitution stand for what it really means: the welfare of all the people, all the time.” Lastly, he advised the Nisei to keep up that fight.
Let’s not forget the Military Intelligence and Language Service. More than 6,000 Nisei served throughout the Pacific in a close kept secret branch of the military. Nisei provided the eyes and ears of intelligence and language skills that helped to break the stalemate in the Pacific. They broke secret codes, interrogated prisoners, provided valuable propaganda, and translated millions of documents to help win the war in the Pacific. By the war’s end, General Willoughby, General MacArthur’s chief of intelligence, declared that “the Nisei shortened the war by two years and saved a million Allied lives.” Never had so many owed so much to so few.
For your contributions to winning the war and securing the peace, we owe you a debt of honor that we could never repay.
In closing, I would like to recognize and humbly thank the Veterans who served before me, and the Nisei Veterans Committee for allowing me the gracious privilege to speak today on behalf of the current 100th BN 442d IN Regiment. Thank you and GO FOR BROKE!