U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert honors Issaquah veterans

November 10, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (left) thanks University House Issaquah resident Harry Tanaka for his service in the Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II in Italy and France. By Greg Farrar

NEW — 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 2011

The day before the United States pauses to honor veterans, attention focused on the greatest generation and the sacrifices members made to fight and win World War II.

The early Veterans Day observance in Issaquah included a visit from a congressman and a chance to share stories about the long-ago conflict.

Jack Yusen served aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts amid World War II, until Japanese forces sunk the destroyer escort in the Battle of Leyte Gulf — the largest naval battle during World War II. Some sailors survived the attack only to bob in the shark-infested Philippine Sea until rescuers arrived days later.

“We had no water, no medicines, no food,” Yusen said Thursday. “If one of the guys got bit by a shark, we’d push him away, because the blood made other sharks come. It was horrible. I was 18 years old, but we survived.”

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert met Yusen and about 15 other veterans Thursday at University House Issaquah, a retirement facility, to pay tribute to veterans from World War II and other conflicts. In a brief speech, the congressman called on others to acknowledge veterans’ sacrifices and service. (The National World War II Museum estimates about 1,000 veterans of the conflict die each day.)

“We know that freedom is not free,” he said. “It’s not just those that have given their lives, those buddies and friends that you all lost in battle. It’s the memories that you carry around with you, too. It’s the sacrifices that you’ve made to be away from your families. You’ve come back, thank God, to your families, but you still carry those memories with you.”

Reichert, a former King County sheriff and Auburn Republican, met residents at University House Issaquah the day before Veterans Day.

“We are all so proud of you and all very thankful for your service,” he said.

The veterans gathered in a meeting room at University House Issaquah served in World War II, plus the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

Despite completing almost-superhuman tasks amid the wars, Yusen and the other veterans remain humble about the era.

“We had a job to do and we did it, just like I told the congressman,” he said.

Reichert also called for people to cooperate, rather than point fingers, to solve modern-day challenges, much as the World War II generation did to defeat fascism.

“I know your generation didn’t grow up that way. My generation didn’t grow up that way,” Reichert said. “Take responsibility. Stand up and find solutions. Work together to bring the country together.”

Unity is essential if the United States is to overcome 21st-century challenges, such as a tough economy at home and terrorism abroad, he added.

“When did we ever get to the point in this country where the Republicans think the Democrats don’t have good ideas and the Democrats think that the Republicans don’t have good ideas?” Reichert said. “That’s the wrong thinking. Republicans can’t always be right. Democrats can’t always be right. How do we move forward? We have to work together.”

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