Violet Kagawa

Christina O'Connor
Wednesday - October 19, 2011
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Kagawa (center) with Millie Honda and Evelyn Tsuda. Photo by Tammy Kubo

On Nov. 2, members of the U.S. Army 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service will receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during World War II. The groups of troops were mainly Japanese-Americans from Hawaii who dedicated themselves to fight in the war, despite the fact that the U.S. was sending many Japanese-Americans to internment camps at the time. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award granted to military personnel.

Kalihi resident Violet Kagawa, a Farrington High School grad, is making sure the troops arrive at the ceremony in Washington, D.C., with some Hawaiian style. Kagawa has volunteered to hand-sew lei for each of the 60 men who will attend the ceremony. And that’s not all. The veterans also will attend a luncheon here in the Islands in December 500 veterans are expected, and Kagawa has volunteered to provide lei for all of them.

The red, white and blue lei are made with a stitch that Kagawa created herself just for this special occasion. Kagawa started sewing the lei as a way to honor the veterans when she heard they were going to D.C.

“I wanted them to shine because we are so proud,” Kagawa says. “So when I created this lei, I made it with a nice, shiny effect.”

Kagawa knows that she has taken on a huge project each strand on the three-stand lei takes almost two hours to complete but patriotism and gratefulness inspire her.

“I wanted to give back to the boys who gave all of themselves to our beloved country,” she says. “Many of them sacrificed their lives, and I wanted to give each one of the (veterans) a lei that is a labor of love to show them our thankfulness and gratitude for what they have given of themselves.”

Kagawa has a few helpers, but she has to make 500 lei in less than two months and is calling all crafters to lend a hand. If you are interested in helping with the project, call Kagawa at 845-0544. She can provide all of the materials and will collect the finished products.

“This is one way ... that I can show my appreciation,” she says.


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