HONOLULU (KHON2) — On the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a forgotten relic of World War II gained a new place of honor. It was discovered during the gutting of an old Oahu home, and the heirloom is now in the possession of family members who never knew it existed.
The history of the house on Flamingo Street isn’t out of the ordinary, a growing family lived, learned and loved for decades in the home until it came time to move on quite a while ago.
New owners took it over a couple years back and had a bit of work to do to make it inhabitable again.
“We threw everything out in dumpsters, cleaned it out as much as possible, because we were hoping to rebuild it right away,” said Roger Seibel, one of the owners. “And then here we are two years later and I thought everything was out of there.”
The COVID break in 2020 gave them some time to take on another round of home improvement at the fixer-upper. That’s when something caught Seibel’s eye on a high shelf.
“I saw this little box here with this kind of deteriorated cardboard and then I opened up and first thing I saw was it says ‘Bronze Star Medal,’” he said, reading the old box cover. “So I thought it was kind of maybe a toy or something, and I was like, ‘it can’t be.’ So then, when I opened it up, oh my goodness, it looks pretty legit. Still thought, well, maybe it’s still a toy.”
Then he turned it over and saw the name inscribed on the back.
“It says ‘Shigeo A. Higa.’ Yeah, it’s a Bronze Star,” he said. “That’s probably been in here for quite a while.”
There’s more than one war veteran named Shigeo Higa – all of them deceased – but thanks to the very neat handwriting of someone who once lived there, scrolled in a cursive practice book from a bygone era, sister station KHON was able to track down a daughter named Amy Higa.
She said Shigeo was born in Makawao, Maui. He served his country with the Go for Broke 442nd Infantry Regiment, then raised a big family while working for Pacific Concrete and Rock. He had two marriages of 25 years each, 5 children, 4 stepchildren and oodles of grandkids. He died at age 84 in 2007.
Shigeo’s columbarium plaque at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific states “BSM” for Bronze Star Medal, but Amy says he never told the family anything about it. She says she and the five siblings who grew up on Flamingo Street never knew this precious honor was on a high shelf under wraps all those years.
“I think the older generation, they did what they had to do, whether or not they got a medal or something for it,” Seibel said, “It was just, they were serving their country. I don’t think it was something they wanted to display out there and put out in front of everybody. I’m glad we found it.”