By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Five community leaders will be honored at the OCA Asian Pacific American national convention next month at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
A diverse group, the honorees include a World War II veteran, a writer, a leadership training consultant, a former president of the oldest and largest Asian-American organization, and a civil and human rights lawyer.
The gala awards will be the highlight of the four-day event, August 2-5, which will include workshops, youth and college programs, tracks designed for small business and professional leadership development, and notable speakers and guests.
This year’s honorees are retired Marine Maj. Kurt Chew- Een Lee, who will be awarded the Pioneer award. Also receiving the award is acclaimed book author, Maxine Hong Kingston.
Community leaders and advocates J.D. Hokoyama, Floyd Mori, and Karen Narasaki will be presented with the Citizen Life Achievement award for their work in advocacy and organizing.
“We are proud to honor a diverse and legendary group of APA leaders who have made impactful contributions to the community and their respective fields,” said Ken Lee, OCA national president, in a statement. “Their courage and leadership have paved the way for countless APAs in the arts, education, military, and civil rights.”
The awards will be presented on Saturday, August 4. The organization will also recognize the achievements of its own members with the Chapter of the Year award and the Unsung Heroes awards.
Lee was the first Asian-American to be commissioned as a regular officer in over 200 years of the Marine Corps history. He was the first Asian-American to be assigned command and staff billets in combat units.
Major Lee grew up in Sacramento, Calif. and was inducted into the Marine Corps in 1944 at age 18. He is credited for erasing the stereotype that soldiers of Asian descent do not do well in combat by his heroics in the battlefield.
Hong is an acclaimed book author; Hokoyama is former president and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics; Mori served as president of the Japanese American Citizens League and Narasaki, is past president and executive director of Asian American Justice Center.