Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) died Monday evening at Walter Reed Hospital of respiratory complications. The 88-year-old Inouye had been hospitalized since early this month due to respiratory problems. Inouye was a WWII hero and had served the state of Hawai’i since it’s joining the U.S. in 1959, starting as the state’s first Congressman, then in the Senate from 1963 until his death. He was the longest-serving Senator in the chamber and served as the Senate pro tempore, making him third in line for the Presidency.
His website notes that:
“The story of Dan Inouye is the story of modern Hawaii. During his eight decades of public service, Dan Inouye helped build and shape Hawaii.”
His colleagues in Washington praised him, taking to the Senate floor to remember him. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke of Inouye’s service in WWII, recalling the Senator’s answer when Reid had asked him why he had enlisted when people of his race has been declared “enemy aliens.” Inouye’s response was that he did it for the children. “That’s Senator Inouye,” Reid said.
Inouye enlisted in the army at age 17, right after the Pearl Harbor attack. He served with the E Company of the 224 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting completely of Japanese Americans. He faced combat in Europe and lost an arm charging a series of machine gun nests in Italy. Inouye won the Medal of Honor for his service. The Senator had been on several Senate committees including Appropriations, Commerce and Indian Affairs. He was the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Inouye was known as a bipartisan, always putting country before party. He served on the Watergate Investigative Committee and chaired the special committee that investigated the Iran Contra affair.
Inouye’s seat will be filled by an appointment by Hawaii’s governor, Neil Abercrombie (D). There are three finalists which were provided by the state Democratic party as state law requires his replacement to be from the same political party. This appointee will serve until the seat is up for the full term in 2016. The appointee may be one of the two current House members: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard. The latter, one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress, was just elected to her position.
When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, the humble Senator said, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.” His last words were, “Aloha.” Aloha Oe’, Sir and Mahalo.