The Things We Keep #49: Dad’s Boy Scout Shirt

Cleaning out the Kiyohara family home, I discovered my father’s Boy Scout uniform shirt carefully packed away in a dusty trunk, in the very back of the garage.

Normally, I’d smile as I always do when given the chance to reconnect with Dad but this time was different.

Having sworn the Boy Scout oath to “do my duty to God and Country,” the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America certified Dad as a Boy Scout in good standing, even though he was locked up in a “relocation” camp.

Dad was a teenager, an American citizen born in the USA, and a native son of California yet forced out of home and illegally imprisoned in a “relocation camp” in the middle of the Arizona desert simply because he was of the son of legal immigrants from Japan.

To this day, the injustice makes me furious.

Yet Dad only told us stories of playing baseball, swimming, fishing, and having fun at “camp” — when I was a child, “camp” sounded pretty cool.

And so I keep this Boy Scout uniform shirt with “POSTON” emblazoned on the sleeve, along with the card that certified Dad was a good scout.

When the Pacific War ended, the Kiyohara family was released from prison camp, settled in Los Angeles, and then Dad was drafted and served honorably in the US Army during the Korean War.

Dad returned home a veteran to find social isolation, economic discrimination, and open racism against “damned Japs, Chinks, and Gooks.”

Brushing all that aside, Dad worked hard as a “Japanese Gardener,” fell in love with Mom, raised three kids, and served as Scoutmaster, Board President, and Elder at a Japanese-American buddhist temple in South Central Los Angeles.

Thank you, Dad, for being a good scout, a true American, and teaching us to never be bitter, to “do a good deed daily” and to “be prepared” for anything life might throw at us.

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