Frank Tanabe was 93, a World War II veteran, a Japanese American who wanted to fight to prove that he, his family, and his community were real Americans. This image, taken one week ago, shows Tanabe on his deathbed, voting via absentee ballot, for the very last time. Frank Tanabe died of cancer yesterday.
The caption on the photo, which went viral on Reddit, with over 600,000 views, reads:
My grandfather is proud of having voted in every single presidential election since he was awarded his citizenship in order to serve during WWII. Here he is, 93 years old and on his deathbed, with my aunt helping him fill out one last ballot.
“Despite a diagnosis of terminal liver cancer two months ago and a deteriorating condition that sent him into hospice care, Tanabe anxiously waited for his absentee ballot to arrive in the mail, his daughter Barbara Tanabe told AP,” The Huffington Post reported Monday:
As soon as it came Wednesday, he insisted on filling it out.
As his daughter read aloud the candidates’ names, he nodded “yes” or “no” and she filled in the boxes on his behalf.
“There were some that were OK, but there were others where I said, ‘Dad, are you sure?”‘ she said in explaining that she didn’t always agree with his choices but cast the names she was told. Tanabe, who didn’t reveal her father’s preferences, said he had all his mental faculties and had read newspapers and kept up on the news until only recently.
Doing one’s civic duty has always been important to Tanabe, who volunteered for the Army from California’s Tule Lake internment camp. He was one of 110,000 Japanese-Americans ordered detained by President Franklin Roosevelt after the war began.
Tanabe was assigned to the Army’s Military Intelligence Service, which collectively was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last year along with soldiers from the highly-decorated all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team .
“I’d like to accept on behalf of all hyphenated Americans, including American-Americans,” Tanabe told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last year. “We all served together in defense of our country.”
Barbara Tanabe said her father “feels like joining the Army, going to the camp, fighting in the war, and fighting discrimination — these were all things he did so that we have this precious right to vote.”
Tanabe represents an America very different than today, one that wasn’t as selfish and self-indulgent. Hopefully, his efforts will inspire others to vote on November 6.
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