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Honors will replace prejudice for Japanese-American vet

9:04 PM, Jan 18, 2012   |    comments
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Tom Fujiki will receive the Congressional Gold Medal February 20th.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - A Japanese-American who faced bloody battles and prejudice during World War II will be honored at the state capitol next month.

Dozens of Japanese-American veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last December, but somehow Tom Fujiki's name fell through the cracks. His grandson saw the story on 11Alive News of the Doi brothers, two Georgia residents who received the award.

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Steve Herron contacted the office of Senator Saxby Chambliss to make sure his grandfather got his due.

"He served our country despite the prejudice he faced," said Steve Herron, Fujiki's grandson. "He served with honor."

Fujiki and the Doi brothers were Nisei soldiers, American citizens with Japanese parents. After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, their families were sent to internment camps. When America needed soldiers for the war effort, young Japanese-Americans were handed guns and put into a segregated unit of the Army.

The soldiers were sent into some of the bloodiest and riskiest battles of the war.

"We got to defend the country," said Fujiki.

At the age of 92, his speech hindered after a small stroke, Tom Fujiki can still express his pride in defending America.

"I'm glad I fought," he said.

Fujiki thought he'd seen the last of the Japanese-American soldiers who joined him on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, but he was wrong.

After seeing the story of the Doi brothers, Steve Herron contacted 11Alive. The result was a first ever meeting between the three men who now call Georgia home.

The men talked of war, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame those challenges with a shared devotion to the United States.

"We had something to prove," said Michael Doi. "To be an American. And we did."

Tom Fujiki was wounded four times during the war. His family says there are still times when he suffers from nightmares.

A fresh round of honors nearly 70 years after the war is helping them heal.

"We're just so proud of him," said Herron. "They sacrificed so much and we're so grateful."

Fujiki is scheduled to receive his Congressional Gold Medal on February 21.

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