Veteran’s last vote an inspiration


How important is your vote?

Important enough that for one 93-year-old World War II veteran out in Hawaii, he made sure he got his in, even though he was on his deathbed.

One week after Frank Tanabe voted an absentee ballot, the Army veteran who was suffering from inoperable kidney cancer passed away at his daughter’s home in Honolulu. A photo of his daughter helping him with his absentee ballot was posted on Internet social media by his grandson. Picked up by news services, it led to numerous Americans expressing gratitude for his service to the country and his determination to make his vote count, even as his life was slipping away.

According to news reports, Tanabe didn’t have a conventional entry into the Army. He was one of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans who were placed in detention camps after the beginning of World War II. While the treatment could have left him bitter, instead, he volunteered for Army service. Assigned to the Military Intelligence Service, he interrogated Japanese prisoners in China and India.

Last year, he and other Japanese-American veterans of World War II who served in the Military Intelligence Service were given the Legislature’s highest civilian recognition — the Congressional Gold Medal.

In a documentary interview, Tanabe said that all he had wanted to do during World War II was to prove he was a real American, not a planted enemy, and do his best to serve his nation if he were afforded the chance. He was, and he came through with flying colors — the red, white and blue of the flag that his daughter said he enjoyed seeing flying at her home.

Two questions naturally arise: Now that Tanabe has died, will his vote count? And who did he vote for in the presidential election. No doubt both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney would love to be able to tout receiving Tanabe’s ballot.

Hawaiian officials say the answer to the first question is it likely will. If election officials were to get a death certificate for Tanabe before the Nov. 6 election and if they were able to locate the envelope in which his ballot resides, then it would be tossed.

Our guess is they won’t look very hard, if at all.

The answer to the second question is: Tanabe’s family is not telling who he voted for.

We hope that this American veteran’s secret ballot remains just that — a secret. What he did should inspire those of all parties — Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green ... all of them — to go out and do their civic duty. And no party should be able to take his love for his nation and turn it into campaign fodder.

We salute Frank Tanabe for his service to our nation and his determination to be an example of fine citizenship, an example his family members, demonstrated by their actions, have taken to heart.