‘Our Country Has Lost a True American Hero’

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Rafu Staff Report

Across the country, colleagues and admirers of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who passed away on Monday at the age of 88, have expressed their grief and paid their respects. Following are some of their statements.

President Barack Obama: “Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye. The second-longest-serving senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union. In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve.

“But it was his incredible bravery during World War II – including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor – that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye with his son, Kenny, daughter-in-law, Jessica, and granddaughter, Maggie.

Vice President Joe Biden: “As my mother would say, the greatest virtue of all is courage, and Danny was courage personified. From the battlefields of World War II, where he received the Medal of Honor, to the floor of the United States Senate, where he displayed incredible moral bravery, he was always the same – courageous and resolute.  He was one of the most honorable men I ever met in my life, and one of the best friends you could hope for. He was honest, and fiercely loyal, and I trusted him absolutely.

“Everyone in the Senate not only admired Danny Inouye, but they trusted him. We all knew he would do the moral thing regardless of the consequences – whether it was passing judgment on a president during Watergate or on another president in the Iran- Contra hearings.

“And Danny always remembered where he came from – and how hard his family had to struggle. From having to fight for the right to fight for his country in the all-Japanese American 442nd, to his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, he always spoke of the country’s struggles with racism and bias, and his call for a ‘new era of politics.’ And to his dying day, he fought for a new era of politics where all men and women are treated with equality.

“Above all, Danny was my friend, and Jill and I are praying for his entire family today.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend, Danny Inouye. From his earliest days in public service to his last, he inspired others to reach for the American dream – because that’s exactly what he did.

“No matter what barrier was in his way, Danny shattered it. He was the highest-ranking Asian American politician in history and the first Japanese American to serve in the House of Representatives and Senate. He was a soldier, a Medal of Honor recipient and a hero. But despite the accolades from a lifetime of service, he never lost his humility and compassion.

“Danny was an icon in his native state of Hawaii and a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, minorities, and women throughout the country. He spent his life working for a brighter future, and we are all better off for it. I will always cherish his friendship and guidance in the Senate. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Irene, and all those whose lives he touched.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki: “Sen. Daniel K. Inouye stood among the ‘greatest’ of our ‘Greatest Generation.’ Recipient of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor; distinguished service as a long-serving member of the U.S. Senate; and role model to generations of Americans of Asian Pacific Islander heritage, especially those growing up in his beloved Hawaii, Sen. Inouye made public service a noble and honorable calling.

“Dan Inouye’s courage on the battlefield and in Congress, his passion for making a difference in the lives of average Americans, and his intense modesty spoke volumes about a remarkable American, who embodied the bedrock values and quiet virtues of our nation.

“On behalf of America’s 22 million veterans, I salute the memory of a brave man, a great patriot, a devoted public servant, an unwavering benefactor to servicemembers and veterans of every generation, and my friend and mentor. I extend my deepest personal condolences to the entire Inouye family.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii): It is very difficult for me to bid aloha to my good friend, colleague, and brother Dan Inouye. Sen. Inouye was a true patriot and American hero in every sense. His legacy is not only the loving family he leaves behind, it can be seen in every mile of every road in Hawaii, in every nature preserve, in every facility that makes Hawaii a safer place.

“Dan fulfilled his dream of creating a better Hawaii. He gave us access to the resources and facilities of the mainland states took for granted. He leaves behind him a list of accomplishments unlikely to ever be paralleled.

Sen. Daniel Inouye attending the Day of Valor memorial service last April at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

“Tomorrow will be the first day since Hawaii became a state in 1959 that Dan Inouye will not be representing us in Congress. But every child born in Hawaii will learn of Dan Inouye, a man who changed our islands forever.

“I join all of the people of Hawaii in praying for his wife Irene, his son Ken and daughter-in-law Jessica, his step-daughter Jennifer, and his granddaughter Maggie, who brought him so much joy in this life and carries his legacy forward.

“Dan, my dear friend and colleague. You will be missed in Washington as much as you will be missed in Hawaii. Rest in peace.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): “My dear friend, Sen, Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii, was one of the finest men I have known in my lifetime. He was one of the most distinguished senators this body has ever seen. He was a soldier of incomparable bravery and a man of uncommon decency, and it is with deep sadness that I mark his passing.

“As a young man, Sen. Inouye demonstrated the kind of bravery that challenges us all to rise to a higher standard. Although Sen. Inouye and other Japanese Americans were exempt from the draft, he volunteered to fight for our flag. He volunteered, even though the families of so-called Nisei soldiers were imprisoned in American internment camps.

“Sen. Inouye was wounded in battle saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. For his acts of valor, he received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.

“Sen. Inouye’s son once asked him why – after being called ‘enemy aliens’ and after being held in internment camps – he and the members of the famed 442nd fought so heroically. Sen. Inouye told his son that he fought ‘for the children.’ For children, there could be no finer role model than Sen. Inouye.

“Today, my thoughts are with his family, including his wife Irene, son Ken, daughter-in-law Jessica, step-daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Maggie. Their loss is the nation’s, as today we all lost a pioneer and a noble soul.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “Sen. Daniel Inouye was a man who rarely called attention to himself but who lived a remarkable American life filled with the dignity and grace of a true hero.

“Sen. Inouye was only 17 when he heard the sirens over Honolulu and saw the gray planes flying overhead. At the time he dreamed of being a surgeon. A few years later, a medic would be taking care of him after his heroic actions in the Italian mountains for which he would one day receive our nation’s most prestigious award for military valor.

“Dan Inouye’s dream of being a surgeon was not realized, but there were other things in store. Instead, he became a member of one of the most decorated U.S. military units in American history and one our nation’s longest-serving and finest senators.

“An iconic political figure of his beloved Hawaii, and the only original member of a congressional delegation still serving in Congress, he was a man who had every reason to call attention to himself but who never did.

“He was the kind of man, in short, that America has always been grateful to have, especially in her darkest hours, men who lead by example and who expect nothing in return.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the new Senate president pro tempore: “I rise today to pay tribute to one of the greatest members of this body ever to have served, and one of my dear friends. Daniel Inouye was perhaps the best role model for public service any American could ask for.

“Sen. Inouye’s story is one of great passion for his people, commitment to his calling in public service, and dedication to finding a better way forward for all Americans. He was a true patriot, a soldier in World War II, a veteran of our armed forces; he fought for the freedom of the nation he so loved and believed in.

“As a representative of Hawaii he dedicated his career to establishing and solidifying a place for his state in Washington so that generations of Hawaiians to come might know the benefits of federal support for such important causes as higher education, transportation, health care, and security. His advocacy was never in vain; his people have benefited immensely from his service.

“His efforts to bring people together are unmatched and the grace with which he conducted his work will always inspire me. He poured his heart and soul into the Senate, and we all felt his passion and concern for the work of this body.

“There is no doubt that Sen. Inouye will be greatly missed in these halls. He said he wanted to be remembered as having represented his people and all Americans honestly and to the best of his ability. I know he did, we all know he gave his everything to the Senate, and his legacy will live on in the work we will continue to do.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): “I am deeply saddened to hear that we lost Sen. Daniel Inouye today. Sen. Inouye was a soldier, a hero, a statesman, a patriot, a gentleman and a true friend to all Alaskans. His loyalty was as solid as a rock, and his commitment to his principles and his country was something you could bank on.

“Sen. Inouye entered into public service when he enlisted at age 17 after the Pearl Harbor attack. His military work cost him his arm when he charged a machine gun bank, but he never, ever lost his fighting spirit.

“He was the first congressman that Hawaii ever had, being sent to Washington as soon as they became a state in 1959. He fought for his people and his culture every day since on Capitol Hill, and he was a stalwart defender of his state’s first people – as well as Alaska Natives and Native Americans.

“He felt the bond shared by the two ‘island states’ of Alaska and Hawaii, taking a lasting pride in his close friendship with Sen. Ted Stevens, a man he called his brother. Both he and Ted were members of the Greatest Generation, who saw the value in putting people over politics and spent their lives literally building the states they represented. They don’t make them like Sen. Inouye anymore.

“I am told that he was with his wife and son when he passed away, and that his last word was ‘Aloha.’ I join every Hawaiian and Alaskan in saying ‘Mahalo’ to him.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “Danny Inouye was many things in life – a Pearl Harbor veteran, an American hero and Medal of Honor recipient, a leader in the United States Senate, a father, a grandfather, and a loving husband to his beautiful wife, Irene. He was a passionate leader for the people of Hawaii and spoke lovingly of the islands he called home.

“I was honored to serve with Danny my entire service in the United States Senate, but even more so privileged to call him my close friend. Willing to cross the aisle, Danny was a man of principle and decency who always stood up for what he thought was right.  Elaine and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family, his friends, and the millions of others who were fortunate to have him in their lives. Aloha, my friend.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.): “Danny Inouye was an American hero of the highest order. As a soldier he broke barriers with his heroism, as a proud Hawaiian he committed his life’s work to serving the people of his state, and as a legislator he earned the admiration of everyone he ever worked with on both sides of the aisle, including me.

“He will be particularly missed among the people of the Pacific Northwest, many of whom will never realize the enduring legacy he has had in investing in our infrastructure, bolstering our economy, and keeping our military installations strong.

“When the truly remarkable senators of our time are discussed, Sen. Inouye’s name will always be right at the top. He gave everything he had for his country and for the state he served since being elected its very first congressman.

“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time. I also know that in time all that he achieved and stood for will be appropriately honored and celebrated here in Washington, D.C. and back in Hawaii.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “My wife Jeanette and I send our condolences to the Inouye family and to the people of Hawaii. When I was elected to the Senate, Daniel Inouye was easily the most recognizable name and face to me, as I remember watching him in action as a teenager following politics. When I arrived in Washington, he was one of the first senators I sought out to introduce myself to in the first days after being sworn in. I always admired his story and how he was the last of the Greatest Generation of Americans that served this country in World War II and then in peace in the U.S. Senate.

“From running down to Pearl Harbor to help others as a medic when our country was attacked, to volunteering to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Senator Inouye exemplified the Greatest Generation. He was a war hero and his bravery earned him our highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor.

“I have always lamented that I got to the Senate too late to meet Sens. Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd. But I will proudly tell my grandchildren that, at least for a brief time, I served with the great Daniel Inouye.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend and colleague, Sen. Daniel Inouye. I will miss his sonorous voice, his big heart, his self-effacing manner, his integrity and his patriotism.

“Over the years, I worked closely on many issues with Sen. Inouye, including creating the first-ever Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center in San Diego. Our most severely wounded military men and women would not have this state-of-the-art healing facility without his help.

“We will never be able to replace this remarkable American, who personified the meaning of love of country.”

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie: “The senator gave everything. He knew the true meaning of ‘Go for Broke.’ He left us with a legacy of honor and service to the people of Hawaii, to the people of this nation, without parallel.

“The senator recently made clear to me his love and affection for us all. He said: ‘I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did okay.’ I’m sure we all believe he did okay.

“Our responsibility is to not just carry on but carry through on his total devotion and commitment to Hawaii and its values. Our thoughts, hearts and deepest aloha go out to his wife, Irene; son, Ken; and the entire Inouye family.”

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle: “Sen. Inouye’s remarkable service to our state has left an indelible mark on Hawaii’s history. My personal condolences go out to Irene and their family.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers from the Japanese government in October 2011. He is pictured with (from right) Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki, son Daniel “Kenny” Inouye Jr., Vice President Joe Biden, wife Irene Hirano Inouye, and the ambassador’s wife, Yoriko Fujisaki.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco): “Sen. Daniel Inouye’s passing marks the end of an era – for the people of Hawaii, the country, and the United States Senate. He was a public servant from start to finish. He was a war hero – earning a Medal of Honor for his actions on the battlefields of World War II before his state was even admitted to the union. He was Hawaii’s first representative in the House, a source of great pride to all members, past and present.

“Sen. Inouye was a patriarch of Hawaii, and all Hawaiians will long remember his unyielding devotion to the economic vitality, progress, and success of his beloved home state. He was the second-longest serving senator in American history, and his fellow Americans will long remember his leadership in protecting our men and women in uniform, strengthening our national security, reaching across the aisle, and investing in a future of prosperity for all.

“By his actions, he stood firm for the independence of the Congress, the strength of our democracy, and the values of the American people.

“Sen. Inouye led a life of principle, passion, service, and sacrifice. He was the highest-ranking Asian American in our country. His story – as an Asian American who lived the American Dream, a soldier who served with bravery and courage, an elected representative who served with dignity – reflects the best of America.

“We only hope it is a comfort to his wife Irene, his son Ken, and the entire Inouye family that so many share in their grief at this sad time.”

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): “Today, the United States lost a great statesman and decorated war hero. As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Daniel K. Inouye gave his right arm in service to his country during World War II in an action that earned him the Medal of Honor. He then continued to give America every measure of his energy, his wisdom, and his devotion through public service.

“As Hawaii’s first congressman and, subsequently, as a nine-term senator, Daniel Inouye embodied the spirit of ‘aloha’ in his work. Serving as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he worked to strengthen our national security and help veterans access the benefits they’ve earned. He was a consistent champion for the interests of Hawaii’s people.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Sen. Inouye, and my thoughts are with his family and with the people of his beloved Hawaii, who will always remember him for his leadership and his courage.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus: “Today, our nation lost a great American. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye was a decorated World War II hero, an inspirational leader and the highest-ranking Asian American in the history of the United States. As president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, he faithfully served the people of Hawaii and the nation at large for nearly half a century. His passing has left a void that cannot be filled. My sincerest condolences go out to his family, loved ones, and the people of Hawaii for their tremendous loss.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Today the State of Hawaii, our nation, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and all champions of social justice and change lost our Polaris – our guiding star – Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend, who has been a hero to us all – his ohana – from his service on the battlefields of World War II to the Senate floor.

“Serving the Aloha State in Congress since it achieved statehood and rising to become the highest-ranking AAPI politician in our nation’s history, his impact on our lives and our community is immeasurable and unparalleled. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Inouye worked across the aisle to ensure that the needs of the people of Hawaii and the sovereign rights of Native Hawaiians, as well as AAPI communities were priorities of the federal government.

“He was a devoted husband and father, and I extend my sincerest condolences to the Inouye family. Sen. Inouye’s passing marks an end of an era, but a continuous attention to his ohana. As he once stated in his fight to protect Filipino World War II veterans: ‘Heroes should never be forgotten or ignored.’

“We, as a grateful nation, will never forget Sen. Inouye. Aloha nui loa.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Today our country lost a true American hero. Sen. Inouye was a man who devoted his life to public service, and he will be remembered not only for his distinguished record as a legislative leader, but also for his heroism on the battlefield. He was a strong advocate for veterans, for Asian Americans and for his home state of Hawaii. Sen. Inouye’s legacy will live on for generations, and I am honored to have served with him.”

Rep. (and Senator-elect) Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “I’m deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of my longtime friend, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Please join me in sending our thoughts to Irene, Ken, their family, and to all his friends, colleagues, and constituents who will miss him so dearly. While we mourn Dan Inouye’s loss, we know his memory will live on in Hawaii and our country for generations to come.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “I am greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Hawaii’s beloved Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. It is a tremendous loss to our state. My thoughts are with his wife Irene, his son Kenny and his family, and all of Sen. Inouye’s staff, who he treated as his extended family.

“Sen. Daniel K. Inouye dedicated his entire adult life to service to America and Hawaii. As a volunteer soldier fighting in Europe during World War II, as a territorial legislator, and as a member of Congress, he never wavered in his commitment to placing the needs of the people he served before his own.

“His bravery in battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His focus on Hawaii’s needs brought countless projects to fruition, including Hawaii’s East West Center. His congressional career earned him a national reputation through his service on the Watergate commission; chairing the special committee on the Iran-Contra investigation; and serving as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as president pro tem of the Senate, which placed him third in line of succession to the presidency.

“But beyond his well-deserved professional accolades, I am proud to have called Dan Inouye a friend and a mentor. His professional generosity and personal kindness have meant the world to me. I attribute a great deal of the success I have enjoyed to his willingness to share with a smile, and to guide with a gentle word.

“I will miss him, and I join our state and our nation in mourning the loss of a great American and a wonderful man.”

Congressmember-elect Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye … who has exemplified the meaning of public service for over 70 years. First, as a part of the Nisei 442nd … where he showed his heroism, then as a member of Congress, where he represented the people of Hawaii for decades.

“Sen. Inouye served as a role model for countless Japanese Americans, like myself, and it was one of my greatest honors to have had his support earlier this year. We have lost yet another great man, who hails from our greatest generation.

“My condolences go out to his wife Irene, and the rest of his family during this difficult time.”

Congressmember-elect Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “I am deeply saddened at the passing of Sen. Inouye. He is a true American hero, sacrificing in battle and breaking the barriers of prejudice that existed during World War II. After serving so admirably and bravely, Dan Inouye returned to Hawaii and began his distinguished career as an elected servant of the people.

“Sen. Inouye was a true servant-leader who inspired so many to step up and serve Hawaii and our nation. The fact his last word was ‘Aloha’ speaks volumes about this iconic leader.

“He has and will continue to be an inspiration and mentor to me and countless others around the world. I extend my deepest aloha to his family and all who were touched by his life and legacy.”

Congressmember-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “Heartbroken at loss of a hero, Medal of Honor recipient and lion of the Senate, Daniel Inouye. ‘Go for broke,’ sir! We’ll see you down range!”

During a visit to Afghanistan in 2009, Sen. Daniel Inouye posed for a photo at the U.S. Embassy with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and embassy staff members from Hawaii.

Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), chair of the API Legislative Caucus: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Inouye’s family and friends. The senator was a remarkable and beloved public representative for his native Hawaii, which is why we are not alone in grieving the loss of a legend in American politics. Sen. Inouye had an illustrious, eight-decade-long career in public service.

“Sen. Inouye served as Hawaii’s first congressional representative when Hawaii joined the Union in 1959. Since 1962, he has served as its Senate representative. As the Senate president pro-tempore, Sen. Inouye was the highest-ranking Asian American politician ever, paving the way for many Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in politics.

“In addition, Sen. Inouye was a World War II veteran, having served as a medical volunteer during the attack on Pearl Harbor and later joining the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. For his military service and dedication to his country, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“Today, the nation has lost a great pioneer in civil rights and American politics. We must strive to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to the community with the same tenacity as the honorable Sen. Inouye.”

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis): “We have lost a true warrior for justice today.”

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco): “Sen. Inouye was a legend to me and to so many Asian American elected officials. Despite significant discrimination against Japanese Americans, Sen. Inouye proudly served our country, like my father, in World War II. He was a proud Medal of Honor recipient who became the highest-ranking Asian American elected official in United States history.

“As a child psychologist, I always admired Sen. Inouye’s commitment to mental health issues and to those living with disabilities. His public service will be so greatly missed and I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee: “Sen. Daniel Inouye dedicated his life to serving his home state of Hawaii and the nation as a steadfast advocate of truth and fairness in government. He was a trailblazer in so many ways, becoming the first and only Asian and Pacific American Islander president pro tempore of the United States Senate. He will be missed.”

Los Angeles City Councilmember Jan Perry: “With the passing of Sen. Inouye, we have lost a great leader, community advocate, and public servant. His story is the story of America. He chose to serve in our armed forces in the face of discrimination and went on to a distinguished and accomplished career in the U.S. Senate. I join the nation in remembering and celebrating his incredible legacy.”

Terry Hara, LAPD deputy chief and Los Angeles City Council candidate: “Today we mourn the loss of an icon in American government, Sen. Daniel Inouye. A true American patriot, Sen. Inouye was part of the heroic 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII and honored with the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, and Congressional Gold Medal for his service to our great country. His career in public service will not be forgotten.

“I was honored to receive Sen. Inouye’s support and endorsement earlier this July, and I am proud to emulate his service to the community.

“Please join me in sending your hearts and prayers to Sen. Inouye’s family at this difficult time.”

Paul Igasaki, chair and chief judge, Administrative Review Board, U.S. Department of Labor: “We have lost a great American hero, a role model for Asian Americans and a great United States senator with the passing of Dan Inouye. Condolences to Irene and the rest of the Inouye family and to our friends in Hawaii who he has represented for more than a half century. As a young Japanese American in Chicago, his image was before me as a symbol of my community’s contributions to our country before I knew what the Senate was.”

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