Brothers Samuel and Fred Kamaka receive Congressional Gold Medals for their service in the U.S. Army during WWII

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Because of Hawaii’s history of intermarriage, the Congressional Gold Medal to WWII Chinese-American veterans also includes many native Hawaiians.

Two brothers, unable to make the presentation later this fall, received their medals in a special ceremony on Sunday, July 25.

When it comes to the craft of making musical instruments in Hawaii, one name comes instantly to mind: Kamaka.

Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka opened his first shop in 1916, specializing in hand-crafted guitars and ukulele.

He taught sons Sam Jr. and Fred, who incorporated Kamaka and Sons after their dad’s passing.

That’s not all the boys did.

In 1941 they witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and they were proud to serve in the U.S. Army.

Now 96 and 99, they might not be up to participating in the local Congressional Gold Medal ceremony this September, so the medals were brought to them.

While the medal honors Chinese-American veterans, native Hawaiians with some Chinese heritage were also eligible for the award.

“If you have some Chinese blood and you served in WWII, you’ll be receiving the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Maj. General Robert Lee, U.S. Army, retired.

Their service inspired future generations of Kamakas.

“They’ve instilled in me service to country,” said Skyler Kamaka, Air National Guard Pilot. “So it’s a tradition. I decided to carry on in the Hawaii Air National Guard.”

“Both my brother and I, we are honored to be medal recipients,” said Fred Kamaka, Sr. “Members of the society that helped to free America. I want to thank you very much for honoring us. As former veterans, we still consider ourselves as members of the Armed Forces reserve.”

Maj. General Robert Lee presents the Congressional Gold Medal to Samuel and Fred Kamaka for their service in the U.S. Army during WWII.  (Courtesy: Katy Gambino)

The local Congressional Gold Medal ceremony is Sept. 26 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom.

A national ceremony will take place in Washington D.C four days later.

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