George Aki ushered in the Centennial a few months early by turning one hundred September 11, 2014 and revealing his choice for Peace that led to a Congressional Medal of Honor in the most decorated unit in U. S. Military History: The 442nd, “Go for Broke”, Japanese American Combat Team.
Every day, he pushes his walker around the campus, stopping to greet each person he meets. Sometimes he sits at one of the many benches to “catch a little sun and watch the people go by.” But they stop, drawn to him by his crinkly eyed smile and contagious laugh and that expectant look that makes them feel his gladness to see them. When asked why he seems so content, he chuckled and said: “Because I got over being angry. Oh, I was so mad!” George was referring to being sent to internment camps during World War II even though he is a third generation American. “My parents were grabbed and sent off to another place, too. They didn’t seem to care that my father was a doctor and busy healing others.” George had studied for ministry, yet was not even allowed to go for his ordination. He had to receive it in the detention center. “After that, I ministered in what they sometimes called “Relocation Centers”in Topaz, Utah and Jerome, Arkansas where I almost froze. But the experience of helping people helped me. My perspective began to change. I cared for my homeland, American and realized that I wanted to protect it. To prove that to myself and others, I volunteered to join the army and serve as a Chaplain to those who were fighting for our country. My feelings of resentment disappeared.” He said they were great boys in his unit in Italy. All Japanese Hawaiians. And they couldn’t speak a word of Italian. “We had a lot of fun with that”, he said. “We got so close. They were able to tell me their fears and their worries for their families. The fighting was so intense and they were very very brave. I stayed with them, even on the front lines. They depended on me being there and tried to insist I carry a gun. That was when I explained to them that I was convicted not to use a gun, but that each of us had to decide how we’d right the wrong through this war. I promised them I would be there with them, by their sides. Every time.”
``My perspective began to change. I cared for my homeland- America and realized that I wanted to protect it. To prove that to myself and others, I volunteered to join the army and serve as a Chaplain to those who were fighting for our country. ``
George left the service as a Major and was minister to Japanese Congregations in Fresno, California, Chicago and Hollywood with his wife, Misaki. In 1968, he became Minister to San Louis Obispo Congregational Church. It was the first Caucasian Church in the South California Conference of the United Church of Christ to call an Asian minister. He and Misaki entered Pilgrim Place in 1980.
– by Constance Waddell