Remembering Our Service Members

Memorial Day 2019

I never met my Uncle Joe, he died many years before I was born, I know he was my mother’s favorite brother. Private FC Joseph H Kato was killed on October 16, 1944 in Bruyeres, France, he was 24. Joe was part of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, which was an all Japanese American regiment, the most decorated in WWII. Joe was like most of his regiment, fighting for the US in Europe while his family was incarcerated in a US prison. The Kato’s were at Topaz Relocation Camp in Utah for the crime of being of Japanese heritage. The reason Joe volunteered to fight and die for the US was to prove that he, his family and his community were “real” Americans. This shouldn’t have been the reason. There was never a proven incident of espionage committed by any Japanese Americans and the relocation camps were a mistake. Our responsibility is to make sure that Joe and many of his fellow soldier’s dying is a lesson that we won’t have to keep learning. Joe would have probably joined the Army and might have been killed regardless, but that decision would have been on his terms. I know very little about Joe, I had heard he was popular and an athlete. The only thing that is tangible is his headstone and the memories we carry about him.

I was pleased this year that the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation added The Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno to their program, this is where Joe is interned. Kitayama Brothers believes strongly in supporting this program and honoring our soldiers, especially the Memorial Day events held on the West Coast. We were able to supply over 35,000 stems of assorted flowers this year to different cemeteries. I wasn’t sure that burgundy snapdragons would be a good tribute flower, but I was pleasantly surprised that they worked well.

I stopped by the Golden Gate National Cemetery around 9:45AM on Memorial Day thinking they might need help with putting out the flowers and cleaning up. When I got there, Chris Johnson from CalFlowers and the Junior Marines who helped put over 10,000 stems on headstones were done. It was an amazing amount of effort and done so efficiently. A great amount of thanks goes to the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation who work on a very small budget.

I was also able to spend some time and leave a few flowers at plot D-203 where Uncle Joe is interned. It was a sunny but chilly Northern California morning. A typical day any California boy would recognize and even though Joe has not been able to experience a day like this in a long time, I want him to know that we still remember his sacrifice.

Robert Kitayama

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