#VeteranOfTheDay Kenje Ogata


Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Kenje Ogata.

Enlisting the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kenje assumed that, having gone through the Civilian Pilot Training Program, he would have no trouble securing a spot on a bomber. Instead, he was sent into the Medical Corps.

Kenje was sent to Camp Grant, a medical training center where he went through basic training as a medical corpsman. After a while it became obvious he was not going into Air Corps and that Japanese American soldiers were not advancing.

His letters to his wife, Wilma, convey not only his dedication to her, but also to doing his patriotic duty, even as his country discriminated against him.

“I know you were hoping that I wouldn’t apply for a transfer but … my conscience would never rest so long as I live, if I didn’t assert myself and fight for what I believe to be right,” said Kenje in a letter to Wilma in 1944.

After two years of advocating for a transfer to the Army Air Corps, he was finally given a chance to fly—but as a turret gunner, and not a pilot. He was sent to Italy and was supposed to have 30 days to train before the first mission. He was recruited to join a flying mission days after he arrived.

During the course of completing 35 missions out of Italy, he was shot down twice over enemy territory.

After the war, Kenje graduated from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. He practiced dentistry until 1996.

Kenje passed away in 2012. We honor his service.

Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? You’re in luck! VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to newmedia@va.gov with as much of the information as you can put together with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating for how to create the best submission.

Veterans History Project

This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.

Graphic created by Carl J. Valentino: Carl J. Valentino is a student at the University of Delaware with a Major in International Business and a Minor in Graphic Design.


Melissa Heintz

Melissa Heintz joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2015 and currently works as the National Veterans Day Coordinator, National Veterans Outreach. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard.