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Mr. Seikichi Kaneshiro Retirement Ceremony (Andersen AFB, Guam)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Friday, May 30, 2008

General, Governor, distinguished visitors, troops – Hoffa Adai!

Governor and First Lady Camacho, thank you for being with us.

It is a real pleasure to be here in Guam. And it is an honor to have the opportunity to pay tribute to Seikichi Kaneshiro, a man known to all of you – and much of the island – as Mr. Paul. His service to country has spanned an incredible 66 years, most of it here.

When Mr. Paul joined the Army in 1943, Japanese Americans weren’t allowed to fight in the Pacific theater. So he went from his native Hawaii to train in Mississippi and then crossed the Atlantic to the straits of Gibraltar. In Europe, he fought with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of all Japanese Americans – the unit that introduced into the lexicon the expression “Go for Broke!” and whose heroism would go down in the annals of military history. Known for its high casualty rate, the 442nd remains the most decorated unit in United States history based on size and length of duty. Its members were awarded 20 Congressional Medals of Honor, and received the Presidential Unit Citation seven times. All the while, many Japanese Americans in the unit had family members who were interned back in the United States.

After the war, Mr. Paul returned to Hawaii. He volunteered to come to Guam to help rebuild after a hurricane destroyed much of the island. He planned on staying two years. That was in 1946.

During his time here, he has helped construct Andersen from the ground up – and I mean that literally. Whether in large buildings or in the meticulous craftsmanship of tables and cabinets, his touch permeates every element of this base. He has a saying: “Be reasonable.  Do it my way.” And Mr. Paul, I think I’m taking that one back to the Pentagon with me.

Mr. Paul’s compassion extends into the local community, where he has always been willing to lend his time and expertise – especially for those facing hard times. The number of lives he has positively impacted is countless.

Mr. Paul has been through many eras in this island’s history – when it was a line of defense in the Korean War and throughout the Cold War. His retirement comes at the dawn of a new era for Guam and its critical role in our nation’s defense posture. In the next few years, the military presence on Guam will greatly expand, with the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force moving here from Okinawa. That Marine unit is the successor to the 3rd Marine Amphibious Corps, which landed here in 1944 to liberate the island. As a sign of how much the world has changed, this move comes with the help of our close ally, Japan.

Beyond Marines, we are also adding more sailors, airmen, and soldiers – for a total of more than 12,000 additional active-duty troops. All in all, it will be one of the largest movements of military assets in decades and continue the historic mission of the United States military presence on Guam: to serve as the nation’s first line of defense and to maintain a robust presence in a critical part of the world. This is especially important when one considers the diffuse nature of the threats and challenges facing our nation in the 21st century – a century that will be shaped by the opportunities presented by the developing nations of Asia.

Of course, our country is only as strong as its citizens – and their willingness to serve the greater good. In this respect, Mr. Paul is an example to us all: an example of the type of extraordinary service required to keep our nation safe, prosperous, and strong.

When the 442nd was formed, President Franklin Roosevelt noted that “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Indeed, I think it is safe to say that Americanism is something best embodied by the man we honor today: a man who traveled half way around the world to fight for freedom on Europe’s battlegrounds – and who spent the rest of his career supporting generations of men and women devoted to keeping the world safe from tyranny.

Mr. Paul, on behalf of the President and a grateful nation, I thank you for your many years of distinguished service. I wish you and your family all the best.