George Takei signed autograph after autograph Thursday in McGehee.

Some were Star Trek fans who loved Takei as Mr. Sulu. Others, however, see Takei as a peer who experienced a common past with them or their parents and grandparents. That past is the history they shared in Desha County’s Japanese American internment camps during World War II.

These camps operated from October 1942 to November 1945 with nearly 16,000 Japanese Americans from around the United States housed in Rohwer and Jerome.

Takei, along with more than 200 people many who either were interned at the camps or had family members who were, attended the 10th anniversary of the Japanese-American Internment Museum Thursday in McGehee. The museum, housed in McGehee’s historic depot, is a depository of artifacts, pictures and documents from the camps, which were surrounded by barbed wire fences and guards during World War II.

“It’s an important chapter in history for all Americans,” Takei said. “It takes people back in time and history.”

Takei was only five-years-old when his family was forced to leave California and relocate to southern Arkansas. While some families never talked about their time in the camps, Takei’s did. In his keynote address at Thursday’s event he said his father and him often had after-dinner chats about their interment and that helped him to gain a perspective about history and how such historical events can “build a better future.”

Places like Rowher and Jerome may have dark stories, but Takei said in the end saving these sites and documenting the history connected to them is critical.

“It is an important contribution…to make better Americans,” Takei said.

Walter Imahara traveled from Louisiana to attend Thursday’s event. He was a child who lived with his family in the internment camps. Imahara, who will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame this year for weightlifting, has spent years collecting stories of those who lived in Desha County during World War II. The stories have been published in a book, “Jerome and Rowher: Memories of Japanese American Internment in World War II Arkansas” with co-author, David Meltzer.

Imahara discussed the importance of recording the stories fromthe internment camps.

Meltzer explained the process to have the University of Arkansas Press publish the book.

For McGehee, the museum creates economic stimulus in this small Delta town. Mayor Jeff Owyoung said that visitors from all 50 states and 56 counties have visited the museum.

Takei has never given up on saving the history in McGehee. He attended the first-ever reunion for those interned in the camps in 2004 held in Little Rock. That was his first time back to Arkansas since his time as a young boy in the camp. He told the crowd that the swamps were drained the land, which was rich in timber during the war, had been turned into farmland. He returned again in 2013 when the museum opened, and at age 86, returned again Thursday.

Before stepping off the stage, Takei gifted a closing message for the guests. Raising his hand, he made the universal sign that all Star Trek know and told the crowd, “Live, long and prosper.”