In this episode you are going to discover the story of another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. Vincent Okamoto, an American of Japanese descent, was recently declared a “Hero of America” by the American Veterans Center in Washington, DC. The event was featured in a story from The Rafu Shimpo Los Angeles Japanese Daily News title: Judge Okamoto Saluted as ‘Hero of America.’ Over 500 people, including veterans and their families, generals, admirals, celebrities Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore, and cadets from West Point and the Air Force Academy, gathered to honor veterans.
The basis for selecting Okamoto for the designation of Hero of America included his military accomplishments during the Vietnam War and service to his community and country after the War. During his three year hitch in the US Army, Okamoto received 14 combat decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and three Purple Hearts.
After he left the Army he earned a law degree from University of Southern California and began a career of public service. Beginning as deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County he went on to win election to the Gardena City Council and served as mayor pro tem.
Okamoto received a presidential commendation from President Ronald Reagan for his work in helping veterans suffering from PTSD and to obtain veterans’ benefits. In 2000, he was honored as Man of the Year by the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.
Not stopping there, Okamoto was appointed a Superior Court judge by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. In 2006, he was honored as UCLA ROTC’s most decorated alumnus and selected as Los Angeles County Veteran of the Year. In 2007, Okamoto was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He has served on the boards of many charitable nonprofit organizations and corporations, and was one of the founding members of the Japanese American Bar Association.
The ironic thing about this great Hero of America, he was born in a concentration camp during World War II or rather as it was called at the time a “relocation center”, the tenth child and seventh son of Japanese immigrants. Vincent Okamoto overcame this shabby treatment by his country, turned the other cheek and went on to serve that country with distinction.