Volunteers Ann and Saburo Sasaki with National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis on Aug. 9 in Washington, D.C. Photo: National Parks Service
The National Park Service honors Saburo and Ann Sasaki with the prestigious Hartzog Enduring Service Award
Each year, more than 440,000 people volunteer for the National Park Service. This year, from among them, the NPS recognized Manzanar Volunteers Saburo and Ann Sasaki with the Hartzog Enduring Service Award on Aug. 9 in Washington, D.C.
The Sasakis were presented their award by NPS Director Jon Jarvis. Also on hand at the ceremony were Manzanar Superintendent Bernadette Johnson and Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Andresen.
Since 2005, Saburo and Ann Sasaki have volunteered at Manzanar between mid-April and mid-June. Saburo spends most of his time talking with visitors, answering questions and presenting interpretive and educational programs for up to 1,500 people each year. Ann staffs the visitor center, assists with Manzanar History Association operations and has completed dozens of major projects for Manzanar’s library, museum, archives, oral history and photo collections. Together, they have volunteered more than 3,000 hours. The couple also presents programs around the country.
“Saburo and Ann’s volunteer efforts are remarkable, and I hope they inspire others,” said Johnson. “Each spring, Sab is requested by many teachers to share his personal stories of life in Manzanar with their students.”
In April 1942, Saburo was a 7-year-old farm boy in San Fernando, Calif., when the U.S. Army uprooted his family. For three years and seven months, the Sasakis —Family #3831 — were among more than 11,000 Japanese Americans exiled to Manzanar. Saburo attended second, third and fourth grades in the camp. The Sasakis left Manzanar in October 1945 for Cleveland, Ohio.
Saburo later met Ann in Cleveland. They both went on to become engineers for General Motors. Today, they travel 2,250 miles each way to Manzanar from their home in Rochester Hills, Mich.
While the distance is impressive, what is most exceptional is Saburo’s seven-decade journey from a childhood in Manzanar to serving as a NPS volunteer. As a Chinese American woman, Ann has the unique burden of interpreting history she is presumed to have endured in Manzanar.
As Ann says, “The story is not just worth telling, it must be told.” Both Saburo and Ann make history come alive for every visitor they encounter.
This year bridges the celebratory 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the eve of the somber 75th anniversary in 2017 of Japanese Americans being removed from their homes and communities and placed in War Relocation Authority camps.
The Manzanar staff nominated Saburo and Ann for the Enduring Service Award because there is no more fitting time to recognize two exceptional volunteers whose lives bridge these two contrasting milestones in U.S. history.
Saburo and Ann hope that one day their children and grandchildren will carry on their volunteer service at Manzanar.
The Manzanar National Historic Site, which was established by Congress in 1992, welcomes more than 90,000 visitors annually to the site. The site welcomes visitors to explore and learn about the experiences of individuals, families and communities incarcerated at Manzanar during World War II.