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Okinawan lives touched by 40th U.S. President

Date Posted: 2004-06-17

An Okinawan woman living in California was caught up in the emotion and grief surrounding President Ronald Reagan’s death and mourning last week.

Junyo Henza, an Okinawan living in Santa Monica, joined American children and their parents in offering flowers to the former President. She stood at the coffin and prayed, much as many other did.

There, she saw an Asian man praying for a very long time, hands clasped together. Wondering, she asked if he were Okinawan. “Yes, he was a third generation Okinawan”.

He told her “my dad had died, so today I’m praying also for father’s side too. Former President Reagan was my dad’s favorite president. Dad had much respect for Reagan because he worked hard for Okinawan generation citizens.

“He passed the law allowing Okinawans and Japanese compensation for World War II, when 120,000 Japanese and Okinawans living in America were sent to special shelter camps. Former President Reagan apologized to those facts and gave compensation.”

The Okinawan man recalled that his father was one sent to a shelter during the war. He says his father gave a speech in 1981 telling of the experience, crying as he did so. “Then, a year later, my father was watching television and there was Reagan signing the compensation. My father was crying so much and he stared at the President, and that is why I’m here instead of my father.”

He noted President Reagan had given a lot of gifts straight from the heart, and says a lot of those warmly went to Okinawans too. “May his soul rest in heaven.”

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