BUENA PARK, Calif. – For Korean War veteran and Buena Park resident Bob Wada, losing his best friend Robert Madrid in the Korean War is something he thinks about every day, even 69 years later.
“It has been hard to forget it, but one way to ease my my mind and my heart was to memorialize,” Wada said.
As Memorial Day approaches, Wada is reminded of those relationships that we typically pay tribute to in services and memorials across the country this time of year. However, this year will be different, with many services canceled due to COVID-19.
“I feel that something’s been taken away from my life by not fulfilling something that I’ve done for all my life,” Wada said.
For over 50 years, Wada has been attending a memorial ceremony at Westminster Memorial Park at the graveside of Staff Sargent Kazuo Masuda. He pays tribute to deceased members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3670, a Japanese American group based in Orange County.
As a Congressional Gold Medal recipient, Masuda served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised predominantly of “Nisei” or second generation Japanese Americans, most of whom fought in World War II, despite their family being imprisoned in internment camps.
Two of Wada’s brothers served in the 442nd, and he and Masuda both had multiple brothers who served in the military.
Between Wada and his four brothers, they contributed nearly six decades of service and were awarded five Purple Hearts. All this in spite of the discrimination many Japanese Americans faced.
“I felt that, it’s still my country, and I still had the freedom to come home from the camp. And I wouldn’t have, I couldn’t have lived with myself the rest of my life if I didn’t serve,” said Wada.