Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
For New Mexico Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, participating as a grand marshal in the 2019 New York City Veterans Day Parade on Monday is a way of educating the public about the Korean War.
It’s a story he feels few people really know.
“It’s an honor representing not only the Korean War Medal of Honor recipients, but all Korean War veterans,” Miyamura told the Journal. “I want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. Not a lot of people understand what we went through. There are a lot of people who don’t even know when the Korean War began.”
He will be one of five grand marshals in the parade, with each grand marshal representing a different era, parade spokesman JohnAnthony DiMaria told the Journal.
Miyamura, who is 94, will represent the Korean War era.
“I’ve tried to live my life by the words, ‘Always believe in yourself, God and country,’ ” Miyamura said. “I’m proud to join so many veterans who epitomize this philosophy and to be a part of Veterans Day in New York City.”
The parade will take place on New York City’s iconic Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. It will feature nearly 300 marching units and more than 25,000 participants from nearly 30 states, including veterans, military members, service organizations, youth cadets and top high school marching bands. The parade will be broadcast online by WABC-TV.
It’s a parade route Miyamura is very familiar with. He served briefly with the famed Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the “Nisei” battalion, during the last months of World War II. He marched in the 1946 victory parade along the same route after the unit returned to the States from Italy.
“I remember the confetti raining down us,” Miyamura said. “Most of us aboard ship returning from Italy were latecomers. We felt so bad. We were getting the glory. Most of the ones who did the fighting were already home.”
He said that inspired many members of the unit, including himself, to join the U.S. Army Reserve.
“We lost 500 Nisei veterans in the Korean War,” Miyamura said.
Born and raised in Gallup to Japanese American immigrant parents, he was called into active duty when the Korean War began in the summer of 1950.
He was deployed to Korea as a corporal. On the night of April 24-25, 1951, his unit’s position was assaulted by a vastly superior Chinese force. Although wounded and bleeding badly, Miyamura single-handedly held off the attacking force so that the rest of his men could retreat safely, before he lost consciousness and was captured by the enemy.
During Miyamura’s time in captivity, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions – a fact that was classified top secret to protect him from reprisals. He was released on Aug. 20, 1953, and received the Medal of Honor from then-President Dwight Eisenhower in October 1953, “which to me was the highest honor a soldier could receive … to have a general like him, who became president, to put that medal around your neck,” he told the Journal in an earlier interview.
He may get a chance to meet with another president on Monday. President Donald Trump is expected to speak at the parade’s opening ceremony.
“I haven’t been in a parade that a president has participated in,” Miyamura said. “That’s quite an honor. I hope we get a chance to meet with him and talk to him.”
Before the parade, Miyamura and the other Medal of Honor recipients will lay wreaths during a memorial service at the customary “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” Eastern time that remembers the armistice that marked the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. The parade will begin at 1 p.m.
“Through his life story and his service to America, Hershey Miyamura truly embodies the spirit and values that define our great nation,” United War Veterans Council Executive Director Mark Otto said. “We’re honored that he will be joining us, and we look forward to seeing him help lead the way up Fifth Avenue.”
Miyamura and other Medal of Honor recipients will be honored with the Naval College Foundation’s Sentinel of the Sea award in a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day on Monday night.
Even in his 90s, Miyamura remains active speaking to students and community groups about patriotism, American history and his faith, and is a strong supporter of his fellow veterans.
“When I turned 60, I realized this was a reason to be alive,” he said. “This was what I was meant to do.”
After his discharge from the Army, Miyamura returned to Gallup, where he still lives. A street, a park and a high school have been named in his honor.
Miyamura’s story was explored last year in the fourth episode of “Medal of Honor,” an eight-part Netflix series that told the stories of eight recipients of the nation’s highest military honor.