WWII veteran receives award from Hawaii students for ‘Heart of A Hero’

Members of the Young Patriot's Club of Navy Hale Keiki School share stories with Takashi Kitaoka, a World War II veteran and retired circuit judge, and his son Lloyd Kitaoka, following a special tribute where they honored the elder Kitaoka May 2 at the third annual "Heart of a Hero" event.

Members of the Young Patriot’s Club of Navy Hale Keiki School share stories with Takashi Kitaoka, a World War II veteran and retired circuit judge, and his son Lloyd Kitaoka, following a special tribute where they honored the elder Kitaoka May 2 at the third annual “Heart of a Hero” event.

Story and photos by Brister Thomas

Takashi Kitaoka, a retired Hawaii circuit judge and World War II veteran, was honored by the Young Patriot’s Club of Navy Hale Keiki School (NHKS) at the third annual “Heart of a Hero” award event held May 2 at the school.

The idea of the Heart of a Hero award was designed by the students in grades first through fourth of NHKS Young Patriot’s Club to honor military heroes. Young Patriot’s Club is for students of active-duty parents.

Kitaoka’s story begins when he was born in Hana, Maui in 1912 as the youngest of four children. As the son of Japanese immigrants, Kitaoka received his law degree from Baylor University and was quickly drafted into the Hawaii National Guard.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Hawaii National Guard Soldiers of Japanese background were separated from their unit because of their ancestry and became the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion in May of 1942. The name was changed in June to the 100th Infantry Battalion and was considered an orphan battalion, as it was not assigned to a larger Army unit.

Kitaoka was injured in battle and received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Congressional

Gold Medal. He continued to serve his community when he became the first Maui-born circuit court judge in 1962. He has also served as the president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club.

“It felt great to honor someone who was in World War II. They fought for our country,” said one of the students, Sebastian Rojas.

The Young Patriots Club votes on the military hero for the year. They selected Kitaoka because “he embodies all that a hero is: selfless service, continued giving and tenacity,” as stated by the students in their announcement.

“The Heart of a Hero ceremony and volunteer recognition luncheon helps our students connect with adults that we hope they grow up to emulate. Heroes that are dedicated, loyal, courageous and service oriented,” said Shari Gulledge, NHKS school director.

Kitaoka is more than 100 years old and the students were pleased that he attended the ceremony.

He was escorted by his son, Lloyd Kitaoka, who accepted the award on behalf of his father, and said, “My father and all of his family are touched by this award. Our family is grateful that our father is still remembered for his many contributions. He was very proud to serve the United States of America.”

“The ceremony gives the children an opportunity to give back and honor those who serve. It also offers a ‘living history’ to make what they learn about real,” said Monique Raduziner, faculty advisor and club founder.

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Category: News