93-Year-Old World War II Vet Casts His Vote, and the Internet Is Inspired

Two months ago, Frank Tanabe was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor in his liver. But there was still one thing he wanted to do.

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Irene Tanabe/AP

In this Oct. 17, 2012 photo provided by Irene Tanabe, Frank Tanabe, center, gets help from his daughter Barbara Tanabe, left, to fill out his absentee ballot in Honolulu while his wife Setsuko Tanabe sits in the foreground.

Two months ago, Frank Tanabe was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor in his liver. In recent days he’s grown increasingly weak, and is now living at his daughter’s house in Honolulu under hospice care.

However, there was one thing Tanabe still wanted to do: vote. After his grandson Noah Tanabe posted an inspirational picture of his grandfather filling out what would likely be his final ballot to Reddit on Thursday, the Associated Press tracked him down and revealed Tanabe’s incredible story.

While studying at the University of Washington, the Japanese-American was forced to drop out of school, joining  100,000 Japanese-Americans who were sent to interment camps all over America at the outbreak of World War II. All of his family’s properties and possessions were gone, as were his future aspirations. But Tanabe made a decision while imprisoned in the Tule Lake internment camp in California that his grandson finds incredible — he volunteered for the U.S. Army.

Last year Tanabe was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his military service.

“It’s hard to imagine – after his family business is torched, his family imprisoned, and denied the opportunity to finish his college education — he volunteered to serve,” Noah Tanabe told the AP. “I don’t know if I would have done the same thing, but we are all very proud of him.”

Redditors also found Tanabe worthy of respect. Comments such as “True Patriotism” and “Thank you, Citizen” flooded the social media site.

Tanabe kept asking his daughter Barbara if his absentee ballot had arrived, the AP reported. On the day it came, he asked her to help him cast what might be his last vote. In the photo taken by his family, Tanabe, with eyes closed and intertwined fingers resting above the blanket, listened attentively as his daughter, Barbara Tanabe, read aloud his ballot.

Barbara Tanabe said it would be “the ultimate honor” for her father to know that his persistence and patriotism had inspired others to cast their ballots, too.