Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aloha, Senator Dan

Hawai‘i is mourning the loss of Senator Dan Inouye, who passed away on December 17 at age 88. Surrounded by his family, Senator Inouye kept Hawai‘i in his heart in his final hours. His last word was, "Aloha."

Senator Inouye at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 2012
Senator Inouye was the most senior senator in the United States Senate at the time of his death, having served in the Senate since 1962. In fact, he had represented Hawai‘i in the U.S. Congress since 1959, the year that Hawai‘i achieved statehood, and was Hawai‘i's first member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history second only to Robert Byrd. He served as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and was third in succession to the presidency.

Receiving the Medal of Honor in 2000
Senator Inouye was also a war hero. He was a Medal of Honor recipient, as well as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart. As a Japanese-American, Inouye faced prejudice after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, yet he volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and served with valor on the battlefield. In 1945 in Italy, he led an assault on German troops when a bullet struck him in the stomach and exited his back. He continued to fight, tossing grenades into enemy machine gun nests, when his right arm was completely shattered by a German rifle grenade. The grenade that he held in his hand was still "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore." To protect his fellow comrades, he pried the grenade from his shattered limb and tossed it left handed into a German bunker, destroying the bunker. He continued to fight until a bullet stuck him in his left leg and rendered him unconscious and near death.

Senator Daniel Inouye went on to serve with distinction in the Senate for five decades. He was a champion of civil rights and civil liberties, and helped to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s. In 1973, he served on the Senate panel that conducted hearings about Watergate.

His influence can be seen throughout the state of Hawai‘i, from roads and bridges to social services and veteran's benefits. RIP and mahalo nui loa, Senator Daniel Inouye.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn

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