Graduating 72 years later

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 Harbor in May 1942 — a month shy of his commencement — and was sent, along with his family, to an internment camp in Arizona.

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

Miyada still remembers hearing the news that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed Executive Order No. 9066 that took those of Japanese decent along the West Coast to internment 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, Miyada will have the chance to rewrite his own history, joining 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 Harbor seniors at graduation Thursday.

Released after two years in the internment camp, Miyada 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.

Miyada is looking forward to making one more memory at 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."

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