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Nisei Vets 76th Memorial Day Service

Dr. Kathryn Tobin

By David Yamaguchi, The North American Post

This year, the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC) and NVC Foundation posted their 76th Annual Memorial Day Service online. Following a rousing “Star Spangled Banner,” sung by pianist Brandon Izutsu, and remarks from new commander, Lt. Col. Michael Yaguchi, USAF (ret.), the video centered on a keynote address by Dr. Kathryn Tobin.

Dr. Tobin is a member of the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee, US Postal Service, that helped make the Go for Broke Japanese American Soldiers of WWII postage stamp a reality. She has done this work since 2013. While she does not say so specifically, it is clear, from listening to her remarks, that her presence on the committee likely helped the Nisei Veterans stamp (article, May 14) complete its 16-year journey from concept, to design, to reality.

Hakujin (Caucasian) only on the outside, Dr. Tobin spent two years from ages 12-14, attending school in Iwakuni, on the Japan Inland Sea west of Hiroshima, where her father was a US Navy aviator. The family lived off-base in the Japanese countryside. The experience made a deep impression on her about Japan because studying its “history, people, language and culture” were a part of the curriculum. Later, at Watsonville High School, California, she was in the classroom of Mas Hashimoto, an American history teacher who was “the best teacher I ever had.” At age seven, Mr. Hashimoto was incarcerated at the Salinas County Fairground, then later in Poston, Arizona. He shared the experience with his students.

“Civil rights are not to be taken for granted,” he told them.

Dr. Tobin went on to explain that the stamp advisory committee meets quarterly and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General. Generally, only about 15 commemorative stamps are made per year. The winners are drawn from thousands of ideas which are then winnowed through legal, ethical, and design stages. The Nisei veterans stamp follows closely on the heels of the Ruth Asawa stamp sheets issued in August 2020. Asawa was a Nisei sculptor who began learning her craft from an art teacher at the Rohwer internment camp (NAP article, Aug. 27).

Dr. Tobin’s closing remarks include the following:

“America still needs each and every one of us. We have so many issues to work on as a country. Let’s “Go for Broke” as the Nisei soldiers did. The baton has been passed…”

Mr. Hashimoto has continued the work on his end as well. Apparently a community leader in addition to being an exceptional teacher, today Mr. Hashimoto is covered by many websites, media articles and videos including a Densho interview and a  TED talk (YouTube).