Terminally-ill World War II veteran casts final vote

Frank Tanabe, 93, in final stages of liver cancer

 

A photo of World War II veteran Frank Tanabe casting what will likely be his final ballot in a presidential election has gone viral --and captured the hearts of thousands.

Tanabe, 93, is in the final stages of inoperable liver cancer and is currently at home receiving hospice care, surrounded by his wife and children in Honolulu.

He has always been a true patriot, his daughters said. In 2010 he was among a group of Japanese-Americans who were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as part of the Military Intelligence Service Unit during World War II.

Originally from the Seattle area, Tanabe enrolled at the University of Washington during World War II but was forced to drop out when he and the rest of his family were placed in internment camps for the Japanese in the U.S. From there, Tanabe volunteered for the U.S. Army, knowing that Japanese-English translators were in need. His family members remained in the camp while he served.

According to his daughters, Frank has never missed a presidential election, and wasn't about to let his illness deter him from voting this time around.

When his absentee ballot arrived on Wednesday, his daughter, Barbara, sat at his bedside and read aloud the candidates and issues.

"I helped him. He either nodded 'yes' or shook his head 'no'," Barbara said. "He didn't always vote for my candidate."

Nonetheless, she followed his directions and mailed in the completed form. He hasn't been able to speak since.

Irene, Frank's other daughter, knew that she was witnessing a rare moment and snapped a picture of the event. She first posted it on Facebook, then her 26-year-old son, Noah, lifted it and posted it on the link sharing site "Reddit." From there, it went viral. Irene said news organizations in the U.S. and other countries have picked up interest in the photo and their story.

Barbara said that she has been telling her dad about all of the internet "buzz" and is sure he is "thrilled about it"

"He is very patriotic, very proud," she said, adding that her father instilled a similar sense of appreciation to his children.

"He always told us it was very important to vote, because he saw his comrades in arms fight and die for American rights," she said.

Among those, she added, was the right to vote.

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