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72 years later, former internment camp detainee graduates

Don Miyada was pulled from his classes at the in May 1942 and was sent to an internment camp in Arizona.

Fond memories come to mind when Don Miyada looks back on his days at Newport Harbor High School.

The now-retired, 89-year-old Westminster resident still remembers the classes he took and the camaraderie of his classmates. However, there's one photo missing from his scrapbook: graduation.

Miyada was pulled from his classes at the Newport Harbor high school in May 1942 — a month shy of his commencement — and was sent, along with his family, to an internment camp in Arizona, the Daily Pilot reported.

The then-17-year-old was one of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans confined to internment camps shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Miyada remembers hearing the news that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed Executive Order No. 9066 that said those of Japanese decent must be detained in the camps.

"I never thought it would actually happen," he said. "Being a citizen of the United States and taking civics classes, it surprised me that they were able to declare someone an enemy alien just with the sweep of a pen."

Although he earned his diploma by completing work while in the internment camp, he never donned the iconic high school graduation cap and gown.

On Thursday, though, Miyada is getting the chance to rewrite his own history, joining Newport Harbor's class of 2014 as they walk across the stadium to collect their diplomas.

Harbor Principal Sean Boulton met Miyada during this year's Memorial Day service at the high school.

"[Boulton] found a copy of the program from what would have been my graduation and my name was on there," Miyada said. "I wasn't able to attend, but my name was there anyway. It was very emotional."

Boulton invited him to walk with the 560 Newport Harbor seniors at graduation Thursday.

Miyada is looking forward to making one more memory at Newport Harbor.

"It's their time to graduate and their time of honor," he said of the graduates. "I'm happy they invited me to be one of them."

After two years in the internment camp, Miyada was released and moved to Michigan.

In April 1944, he was drafted to the military.

"I originally picked the Navy because I thought maybe I might see some of my fellow students and graduates of Newport Harbor, but they went through the form and put me in the Army," he said.

After serving in Europe, Miyada returned to the United States and began attending college, eventually earning a doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State University.

Fry writes for Times Community News.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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