Culture News

Uncle Mel, a Member of America's Greatest Generation - by Andrew Geiszler

May 18, 2022

LMI Staff

During AAPI Heritage month, I think of Uncle Mel and his role within American's Greatest Generation. My mother's uncle, Melvin Muramoto, was a member of the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team E Company. The now famed 442nd was composed predominantly of Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) who served in the European battle-theater during World War 2. They did so even as many of their family members and friends were detained in internment camps.

As a child, I simply recognized my Uncle Mel as family who helped out my mother when she travelled from Hilo, Hawaii to go to college in the Midwest. Uncle Mel escorted my mother down the aisle when she wed my father. I remember seeing his Purple Heart award for the multiple injuries he sustained during the fighting. The award was "cool" to view as a kid, but its meaning resonates much more deeply with me as an adult. 

 

Orange Rule Line

“...I remember seeing his Purple Heart award for the multiple injuries he sustained during the fighting. The award was “cool” to view as a kid, but its meaning resonates much more deeply with me as an adult...”

 

Uncle Mel volunteered for the U.S. Army as an 18-year-old after graduating from Hilo HS. He and his fellow Hilo recruits got to ride the Queen Mary to San Francisco on their way to training camp in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. But the cattle cars they rode from California to Mississippi were a far cry from the Queen Mary. 

He saw fighting in Italy and France, getting injured and hospitalized twice. Uncle Mel lost his best friend and a Hilo HS classmate during the fighting. From what I could find, the 442nd suffered a casualty rate of approximately 67%. The 442nd also became the most decorated unit in the history of the U.S. military. 

So, this month I think of my uncle and his unit who volunteered to fight in World War 2 to preserve freedom. I'm inspired by their self-sacrifice for the greater good, and hope others are able to find similar inspiration from their Asian-American and Pacific Islander family members. 

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