Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering Uncle Roy

As they say, we often see our relatives at weddings and funerals. This past weekend, out-of-town relatives and family friends gathered in Little Tokyo to honor and remember my uncle Roy C. Machida. My uncle was a medical doctor and a WWII 442nd RCT veteran (G Company). He has seen some human struggle and battles during his lifetime, but his last fight during the past year was with cancer. He finally passed away peacefully, and we'll miss him greatly.



On Saturday, an outdoor memorial service was held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) plaza. It was a beautiful sunny day. With tears and smiles, people came together to celebrate, tell stories, and to honor Uncle Roy's life.



I have fragments of personal memories. Like the time when I was 12 years old, and my brother and I visited my aunt and uncle in LA (coming from Cleveland) for portion of a summer. It was our first time on an airplane. We traveled with my cousins to spend a couple days vacationing at Laguna Beach, and my uncle carried a box load of medical books to read. At the time, I thought he must be a very smart man.

And there are humorous memories, like the time when he used his handicap parking permit at a crowded Office Depot store. I guess, doctors have those things -- just in case. My uncle and I circled a filled parking lot until finally landing in the handicap parking zone. He himself seemed to be walking quite well, but he angrily chewed out a lady in a BMW who was double parked. Often reserved and "low key", my Uncle Roy could have quite an amazing temper.

Once my right ear swelled up due to some allergic reaction, and my ear looked like a "Ferengi". These are times when you realize how nice it is to have a doctor in the family, especially when one lacks proper medical insurance (as a low-income non-profit organization employee). My outer ear cartilage detached from the skin, so Uncle Roy cut the skin of my ear, drained the fluid out, and stitched it back into place. I wore bandages wrapped around my head for a week (to protect my ear) and looked like Gandhi.

In many ways, life is defined by our memories, and people around us continue to live within us from what we remember. After retirement, one of my uncle's projects was a memorial to remember his fellow 442nd soldiers who were killed in action. He was involved with a nonprofit organization called the "Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance". The memorial was eventually realized, and dedicated in February 2000 at the courtyard of the JACCC.



I (and other relatives) sometimes helped Uncle Roy with some issues and questions concerning his computer. And part of the importance in this was an "electronic" memorial in the form of an educational CD-ROM called the "Echoes of Silence". This ongoing CD-ROM project contains the histories of the Nisei soldiers of WWII. My uncle. along with other veterans and volunteers, collected their personal profiles, reflections, remembrances, and stories.



So, Uncle Roy, we'll try to remember and to keep the memories alive.

--

Note:

During WWII, the American military was racially segregated. Nearly 20,000 soldiers who served during WWII were Japanese Americans. Units serving in Europe, like the 442nd RCT, had some of the highest casualty rates. While other Americans questioned the national loyalty of Japanese Americans (due to their ethnic background), these soldiers fought and died while their families were locked up behind barbed wire in internment camps. As the history of WWII fades in the collective memory, it gives more importance that these stories be documented.

This "Echoes of Silence" CD-ROM project is ongoing, and one can contact Jim Yamashita, project coordinator, for more information or to contribute to it. Please visit the website where "Echoes of Silence" will be put online.

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