In May 1942, Don Miyada was just one month away from graduating high school. But instead of celebrating commencement with his classmates at Southern California's Newport Harbor High School, Miyada was sent with his family to an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Arizona.
Miyada was just 17, and "never thought it would actually happen," he told the Daily Pilot. "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." He did finish his coursework in the camp and received a diploma, but it wasn't the joyful experience it should have been.
Miyada was drafted in 1944, and served in the U.S. Army. He went on to earn his doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State University, and shared his story with Harbor's Principal Sean Boulton when the two met at a Memorial Day service. Boulton asked Miyada, now 89, to participate in the Class of 2014's commencement on Thursday, and Miyada accepted, touched by the invite. "It's their time to graduate and their time of honor," he said. "I'm happy they invited me to be one of them."