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Kaimuki nursing home honors its 22 veteran residents

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 11/9/2019

Nov. 9--At 100 years old, World War II veteran Edward Ikuma vividly remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that led America into the deadliest war in history.

Born in Waikiki in 1919, Ikuma was drafted into the Army in March 1941, nearly nine months before the Dec. 7thPearl Harbor bombing.

As a nisei, born in the United States to immigrant Japanese parents, it was not easy for Ikuma, whose grandfather was taken to internment camps on the mainland during the war.

Ikuma, an original member of the 100th Infantry Battalion who participated in every battle of the 100th in Italy and France, and 21 other veterans were honored Friday at their home, the circa-1950 Mauna ­lani Nursing &Rehabilitation Center in Kaimuki.

"I fought the Japanese. Being Japanese, too. But people respected me so I was able to serve throughout WWII, " said Ikuma, who was wounded twice in combat and awarded two Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals, as well as France's highest decoration, the French Legion of Honor. "I still remember those days. I lost my cousins, my aunty, my uncle."

They were casualties of war when their home and adjacent saimin shop were bombed on Oahu.

Maunalani Nursing has 165 employees who care for 100 patients, the youngest a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran.

Punahou School JROTC cadets served as the color guard Friday, while officers and soldiers of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment sang for the veterans during a ceremony that included a dedication on behalf of Gov. David Ige, who drafted a proclamation honoring Ikuma for being the oldest World War II nisei veteran living in Hawaii.

"We've been doing this now for the last 14 years because we want to provide our veterans with dignity and with the respect and honor that they deserve. Many of them used to go to Punchbowl and they used to celebrate Veteran's Day with their families outside visiting burial sites all over the island, " said Czarina Tabilas-Palmeira, the center's community life director. "Some of them can't go anywhere. Since last Veteran's Day we lost 10 veterans. That's why we always treasure them and we want to honor them as much as we can."

Ikuma's granddaughter Carly, who attended the event with her husband, Marine Lt. Col. Michael Aldridge, added that it's especially important to capture the memories of the veterans while they're still here.

"One of the amazing things is he didn't used to talk about the war too much. Within the last several years he began to talk about it a lot more. We really try to take note of everything he tells us because it's important to preserve their stories."

For Ikuma, who is still in good health, he said it's a "privilege to be this old and still participate in functions."

"It's an honor for me, " he said. "I'm enjoying whatever number of years I have left. I hope it's a long time."

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