7 University of Hawaii ROTC cadets honored for their sacrifice
For seven Reserve Office Training Corps, or ROTC, cadets, college graduation day never came.
The soldiers with the Varsity Victory Volunteers left the University of Hawaii's Army ROTC program to serve in World War II only to never return.
"We know of seven right now that went to fight on our behalf in World War II that did not come back, so we are honoring them," said Lt. Col. Kevin McKay.
The men joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard but shortly later were expelled based on their race.
They formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers, cut their college careers short and fought the enemy overseas.
The men later joined the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
For the soldiers' families, Monday's ceremony was the closure they did not expect to get.
"I was always thinking that if something like this happened, it would have happened earlier but this is fantastic," said Michael Nagaji.
Michael Nagaji accepted his uncle Grover Nagaji's posthumous degree. Staff Sgt. Nagaji was from Waipahu. His nephew says his parents would be proud of their son.
"I'm sure if they were here, they would be the happiest they could ever be," said Nagaji.
The recipients of the posthumous degrees were joined by the newest class of cadets commissioned, symbolizing what could have been the next chapter for these soldiers.
For Sgt. Howard Urabe, student life at the UH Manoa campus meant a possible career as a teacher.
"I'm sure he would have been happy because he always wanted to go school," said Urabe's sister Elaine Tamura.
"He was a brilliant man and it is deserving that he gets a degree even if it's way past due," said Clifford Urabe, Sgt. Urabe's nephew.
McKay said although the ceremony came nearly 70 years after the men died, it was the honor the soldiers deserved.
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