John Sato doesn’t usually travel far outside his Howick, New Zealand, neighborhood.
On Sunday, however, the 95-year-old WWII veteran deviated from his daily routine, traveling all the way to the city center of Auckland to take part in a march against racism and to show solidarity to the Muslim community.
The journey would take him four bus rides, but Sato told Radio New Zealand (RNZ) that he felt compelled to make the trip in the aftermath of the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 people.
“I stayed awake quite a lot of the night,” Sato told the radio station of the night after the shooting, adding that he hadn’t slept well in the 11 days since the attack.
The 95-year-old was just a boy when he was recruited to the New Zealand army during World War II to fight against Japan, and Sato says he was just one of two soldiers of Japanese heritage to fight for the nation in the war as reported by The New York Post.
His father was Japanese and his mother was Scottish, but he said he identifies as Eurasian.
Sato began his journey to Auckland at 10 a.m., leaving his Howick home for a mosque in the nearby suburb of Pakuranga where he planned to pay his respects.
After seeing flowers and messages left at the mosque, he decided against heading home.
It took a couple bus transfers, but Sato finally made it to the rally in Aotea Square.
Once there, Sato was greeted by a host of New Zealanders who wanted to help him participate in the march.
When a Getty Images photographer spotted the veteran, he was being guided by a police officer named Constable Rob and actor Bruce Hopkins, best known for playing Gamling in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Sato told RNZ that his decision to make the long journey was motivated by a desire to stand in solidarity with his countrymen.
“I think it is such a tragedy, and yet…it has brought people together. It doesn’t matter what their race or anything. People, they suddenly realize we’re all one. We care for each other.”
While many have been amazed by Sato’s ability to make such a trip, the patriot says the journey was not as difficult as one might think.
“Sitting in a bus is much more comfortable than walking,” he said while laughing, adding that, “You know you just sit back and you sit all comfortable and you feel lazy. You’re brought along you don’t have to walk. It saves your shoes.”
Sato told the New Zealand Herald that he had seen a lot of hate and racism in his life, adding that he is a member of a humanitarian organization that stands for compassion for people of all races.
“In our magazine there is one picture there of a Zulu grandmother helping a man with AIDS. That’s the way we work,” Sato said. “We are all human.”
Sato was lucky enough to have a much easier journey home. A police officer drove him back to his house and gave him a bottle of water.
The police officer “took me all the way home and waited down there until he saw me get up the stairs. Very kind you know,” Sato told RNZ, adding,
“That tragedy in Christchurch — look what it brought out in the people. It shows the best of humanity.”
Sato said that hardships are a part of life, and that it’s important for people to look after one another regardless of their cultural backgrounds or ethnicity. His wife passed away 15 years ago and his daughter, who was born blind, died last year.
He now spends most of his time taking walks around his neighborhood, doing some house chores.
The veteran says life is too short to be wasted on meaningless things like hatred.