War casts suspicions. Who is the enemy? Where does the enemy live? What does the enemy look like? After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, Washington declared people of Japanese ancestry a threat to national security. An Executive Order issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942 forced Japanese people living in the US and Japanese-American citizens to move into ten military concentration camps built in seven states. The Order uprooted thousands from their homes and commercial livelihoods.
Camps I, II and III were located in Poston, Arizona. As detainees living there from 1942 to 1945, the families adapted, built schools, educated their children and lived as a community. They created an irrigation system and planted crops, improvements still evident today in the fertile expanse of farmland in the region.
Decades later, the Poston Memorial Monument near the site of Camp I pays tribute to the memories of the people imprisoned in Poston. It is a reminder of the civil liberties they lost and were later restored.
The designers of the monument, Ray Takata and Stephan Hamamoto, say that the single 30 foot concrete pillar of the monument symbolizes "unity of spirit". The hexagonal base represents a Japanese stone lantern. The 12 small pillars situated around the monument make it a working sundial. The monument was finished off with palm trees and landscaping materials also donated by Camp I detainees and their families.
Alone at the Monument, just Ed and I, we slowly walked among the 12 small pillars, pillar-to-pillar. We gazed up to the top of the tall centrally place pillar and shaded our eyes from the bright noon sun. We read the inscriptions. And, we wondered about the bouquets of silk roses resting on the monument ledge. We had a quiet moment to think about the importance of the liberties we enjoy in the US. How we cherish these civil liberties. How one act by the government can take away the freedom of over 100,000 people?
The was built in the summer of 1992 mainly through volunteer efforts by members and friends of the Poston Memorial Monument Committee. Donations from survivors and decedents of survivors from the three Poston Camps financed the project. The Colorado River Indian Tribal Council granted use of one acre of land on which the monument and kiosk are built.
The monument is on Mohave Road, the route we drove from Ehrenberg and Parker, Arizona. I am glad we stopped for just a moment to pause, reflect, give tribute for a sacrifice, and remember our freedoms.
January 30, 2009