WASHINGTON – Continuing the celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) announced May 6 that the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision for the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct a comprehensive review of the service records of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander war veterans to determine whether they should be awarded the Medal of Honor.
“During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, AAPI veterans were discriminated against due to the color of their skin, and this often resulted in them being under-awarded or not awarded at all for actions of valor that go far beyond the call of duty,” Takai said. “I am pleased that we included a provision in the NDAA that will make DoD review the files of these brave veterans.”
The House Armed Services Committee included a provision in the 2017 NDAA that implements a mandatory review of each Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander war veteran who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross during the Korean War or the Vietnam War. There is also a year period to submit the name of a specific veteran for review.
One such veteran that Takai has been involved with is 1st Lt. John Kuulei Kauhaihao, a Big Island native who was killed in action in Vietnam and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with the family to get to know the story of 1st Lt. John Kuulei Kauhaihao, who rightfully deserves to be awarded the Medal of Honor, and believe that this review will rectify this long-overdue situation. But while I am personally connected to Kauhaihao, we must take a full look at the records of all of these veterans to ensure that not a single one gets overlooked.”
In 2013, then State Rep. Takai introduced and passed Hawaii House Resolution 174, a bill “urging the United States Congress to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to John Kuulei Kauhaihao of Honaunau, Hawaii.” Since coming to Congress, Takai has looked for ways to continue his fight to upgrade Kauhaihao’s award.
A similar review was initiated by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in 1996 to determine if any Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders who served during World War II and received the Distinguished Service Cross were unjustly denied the Medal of Honor. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to 22 AAPI veterans, some of them posthumously. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was among the recipients.