WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) attended a ceremony May 2 at the White House to posthumously award Army Pfc. Anthony T. Kaho`ohanohano with the Medal of Honor.
President Barack Obama presented Kaho`ohanohano’s medal to his nephew, George Kaho`ohanohano, who had worked with Akaka and other members of the Hawaii congressional delegation to get his uncle’s Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to a Medal of Honor for nearly a decade.
Akaka requested the Army to review Kaho`ohanohano’s Distinguished Service Cross documentation for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor in January 2004. The senator and his staff also worked with the nephew in helping to uncover records and build evidence to support the recommendation for an award upgrade.
The Army had turned down a request made by the late Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii) in 2001.
“I enjoyed seeing George Kaho`ohanohano accept the Medal of Honor on behalf of his uncle,” said Akaka. “Over the last 10 years, we have fought diligently to properly recognize Private First Class Anthony Kaho`ohanohano for his heroic actions and exemplary bravery and sacrifice. It is our duty to honor and remember the sacrifices of our service men and women. I assure the families of Kaho`ohanohano and Svehla their heroic actions will not be forgotten.”
“Tony’s loyalty to family was matched by his love of country — even though Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet,” Obama said at the ceremony. “After firing so many bullets, the barrel of his machine gun was literally bent. But Tony had stood his ground. He had saved the lives of his men. After his death, Tony was awarded the Army’s second-highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. But his family felt he deserved more. And so did Senator — and World War II vet — Danny Akaka.”
Kaho`ohanohano, 21, from Wailuku, Maui, gave his life in the Korean War to single-handedly fight off a numerically superior enemy force attempting to overrun his gun emplacement. When he ran out of ammunition, Kaho`ohanohano continued to fight hand-to-hand until he died, so that the other soldiers in his unit could survive.
Pfc. Henry Svehla, a fellow 7th Infantry Division soldier from New Jersey, was also awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor at the ceremony for his actions in Korea.
Akaka has long championed full honors for service members from Hawaii. In 2000, 22 Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry, including 20 members of the famed 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during World War II. Among the recipients was Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who also attended last week’s ceremony.
In 2010, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd RCT, and the Military Intelligence Service collectively in recognition of their outstanding service during World War II.
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) commented, “It was a privilege to attend today’s ceremony at the White House with 30 members of the Kahoohanohano family … It was a touching and heartfelt ceremony, reminding us of his family’s sacrifice in losing this extraordinary young man.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, former Army chief of staff, a Vietnam veteran and a native of Hawaii, also attended the ceremony along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Obama acknowledged them as “two individuals who have been critical as part of my team.”
At the beginning of the ceremony, Obama briefly discussed the death of Osama bin Laden, which he had announced the night before, and added, “We’re reminded that we are fortunate to have Americans who dedicate their lives to protecting ours. They volunteer. They train. They endure separation from their families. They take extraordinary risks so that we can be safe. They get the job done. We may not always know their names. We may not always know their stories. But they are there, every day, on the front lines of freedom, and we are truly blessed.”