Home History JCCCW Omoide Slivers and Twigs ~JCCCW’s Omoide Story

Slivers and Twigs ~JCCCW’s Omoide Story

From left, cousin Kawano, in uniform, grandma Kameyo, Auntie Mary, and Patty Okamoto (Carolee’s mother), Jerome Relocation Center, Arkansas. Kawano probably trained with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team at nearby Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

By Carolee Okamoto

There you are, Mom,

Back in Jerome.

The swamps of “Redneck” Arkansas

The place forcibly called “home”

Turning 18 on the day of arrival

I can see on this day

Your existence, your sheer survival

Your young life so unfairly delayed

And that tar paper siding…

Trapping in all that heat

With all seven of you crammed inside

Wasn’t it stifling? And hard to beat?

And cousin Kawano in uniform there?

Were you forcibly drafted to fight

the front lines?

Or did you bravely volunteer?

And did you live? Or did you die?

And Auntie Mary, your hand in support

Head held high, smiling away.

Ever the loyal sister

Never going far or astray

And there… Grandma Kameyo

With that smirk on your face.

You held on and together…

A true picture of grace

And, Mom, looking ever so gay

Your words and my heart collide

“Laughing is better than crying,”

you’d say

But, I felt your tears held deeply inside

So many thoughts racing asunder,

Rushing through my head

So many questions left to wonder

So many explanations left unsaid

You lived a good life

You kept your smile big

You made the most

Out of slivers and twigs


Carolee Okamoto is Sansei, a third-generation Nikkei, who submitted this story to mark the Day of Remembrance, February 19. She doesn’t know what became of her mother’s cousin Kawano, and now lacks anyone to ask. Carolee’s story is in the November 25, 2020, NAP.

Editor’s note: According to the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd RCT, a chapter of the 442 Veterans Club, 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the US military during World War II, of which 18,000 were in the 442nd and 6,000 in the Military Intelligence Service. Of these, 800 gave their lives during the war, including two Kawanos. https://442sd.org