Japanese-American Veteran Reflects on Enlisting in Air Force after Internment

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RANCHO CORDOVA--

Kiyo Sato was 19 years old, living with her parents and seven siblings in Rancho Cordova when the Japanese Imperial Army attacked Pearl Harbor.

"When Japan dropped that bomb, my brother immediately volunteered and he was sent to Fort Leonard, Missouri while we were being sent to a concentration camp," Sato said on Wednesday. Veteran's Day.

Sato remembers packing up and leaving the only town she's ever known and leaving for Arizona after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, sending all Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

"I had seven brothers and sisters to get them ready. I am just crying and crying because I thought, 'This is it. This is the end of everything,'" she said. "We are on this filthy train going to this destination."

Sato was one of 17,000 people forced to do hard labor for the American government.

Once the war was over, she was finally able to leave the Poston War Relocation Center behind not with bitterness for the country that betrayed her, but with the desire to serve the country in the Air Force.

"Certain things you can't do anything about, like the executive order. You can't do anything about that so you accept those things and then, if there is a silver of hope someplace, you give it your best shot," Sato said.

She was in the Air Force for two years, doing tours in the Philippines and her family's homeland of Japan.

Now, at 92, Sato tours the country and speaks at schools.