A World War II veteran’s jacket has been reunited with his family thanks to the efforts of one man.
Army Staff Sgt. Tadashi Furuike, a native of Hawaii, served as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a World War II unit composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese American soldiers, from 1943 until an honorable discharge in 1946.
He was awarded two Purple Hearts along with a Silver Star for bravery in killing and wounding 60 enemy service members.
His lost military jacket was returned to his family after decades missing, British news agency SWNS reported.
Paul Osaki, 60, bought the jacket and medals for $500 in 2000 while searching eBay for pieces for his Japanese American art and history store, according to the report.
“We were selling the Japanese American G.I. Joe doll, which you couldn’t buy in stores anymore, so we had to find them on eBay,” Osaki told SWNS. “I happened to put in Nisei, which is second generation Japanese American, and this jacket popped up and I could tell it was real, mainly because the name that was written in it, Tadashi Furuike, was such an unusual Japanese name. When I opened it, my store partners and I were wowed, not just because of how good of shape it was in, but because of all of the insignias and ribbons on it. To think that one of the Nisei in the 442nd actually wore it. It was an awe moment.”
The jacket was in his store until 2009 when he closed up shop, according to the report.
A decade later he began to search for the decorated war hero’s family.
Osaki found the email of Furuike’s daughter, Donna Furuike.
“I told her who I was, that I found this jacket on eBay and I think it might be her father’s and she didn’t respond for a while,” he told SWNS. “Finally, she responded ‘Yes, Tadashi’s my father’. That was all, but those few words were more than enough.”
Donna Furuike received her dad’s jacket around Veteran’s Day 2019.
“When I was opening the box I kept thinking, ‘Wow, dad, this is your history. I wish you were here to open it instead of me’. My second thought was, ‘Wow, this is my dad’s jacket! He wore this!’ His handwritten name is right there,” she told SWNS. “He was a small man with a lot of fire in him. Then I started crying. I had a lot of emotions going through me, mostly excitement, anticipation and sadness that he wasn’t there to share in it.”
The memento brings Donna to the great spirit of her dad, who died in 2018.
“I can see him looking down at his jacket in his lap with a grin on his face, shaking his head, probably remembering the history he had with it or wrapping his mind around the fact that his jacket survived so many years and is now a collector’s item,” she said. “I imagine seeing him laugh and smile saying he’s a collector’s item too.”
Now in her possession she has the bond that will keep her family together.
“I’m so happy to have a part of dad back with me,” Donna said. “Paul’s opened my eyes to a part of dad’s history he rarely shared with me. To know that my dad played a part in what the 442nd did for America is amazing. Words cannot express my awe for those soldiers. What a great educational gift to pass down to future generations.”