The Tsukamoto family had lost all hope. They owned a grape ranch in Sacramento California. As a result of Executive Order 9066, one of the most despicable acts of the federal government, they and other citizens of the U.S. of Japanese descent were being sent to internment camps on U.S. soil. Grapes needed constant attention to thrive. Without knowing when they would be freed from the camps, they faced the loss of their livelihood.
A state agriculture inspector, Robert Fletcher, gave them hope for the future. He agreed to manage the farms of Tsukamoto and two other families. This would require that he quit his job. He was offered their home as a place to live, but he chose to live in the migrant worker’s bunkhouse instead. After the farming costs were covered, he was allowed to keep half of the profits. The other half was placed in the bank for the Japanese families to use to start their lives again. Taking care of 3 farms was an 18-hour-a-day job with no days off.
Local farmers did not approve of Fletcher’s kindness. They were hoping that the farms would be forfeited and that they could expand their own farms. The barn was shot at as a warning, and he was harassed continuously. For three years he endured continual abuse, but he knew in his heart that he was doing the right and just thing.
When the Japanese families were released in 1945, they returned home to functioning farms and money to get them through the next growing season. Most other Japanese families were not so lucky.
Robert Fletcher was a hero of World War II who never left the United States. Rather than fight for the principles of America with bullets, he fought for those principles with kindness and hope.
Little was known of his heroism until late in his life. His story must have given shame to those who wanted to take advantage of the Japanese internment policies. He passed away at the age of 101.
Those who give hope to the oppressed are the true heroes of our society. There is no greater gift that one can give to another than hope. That’s a message that all Americans need to be taught.
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“The nice thing about hope is that you can give it to someone else, someone who needs it eve more than you do, and you will find you have not given yours away at all.” – Maya Angelou (poet)