Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye has died of respiratory complications. He was 88. The Democrat was the senate’s most senior member and third in line for presidential succession.
Praised as an “American hero” by President Obama, Inouye received the Medal of Honor for his bravery during World War II and has represented Hawaii in both the U.S. House and senate since 1959 when Hawaii first became a state.
Inouye’s health had been unsteady for some time. He had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since the beginning of December. According to USA Today, his last word was “Aloha” – the Hawaiian word for both “hello” and “goodbye.”
It was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. who announced the news on the senate floor. Following soon after, several senate members made tributes to Inouye and his service.
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Obama released a statement concerning the passing of Inouye, remarking on his successes and contributions to the U.S. military, government, and people of Hawaii. In discussing his heroism, Obama remarked, “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.”
After serving in House, Inouye was elected to the Senate in 1962 and has since then been a major figure in Hawaii. A major supporter of earmarks, his big triumph came in fiscal 2010 when he won approval for $392.4 million in earmarks.
Although Inouye first officially started serving Hawaii in 1959, he has been voluntarily serving his community since he was a teenager. He first volunteered with the Red Cross, helping the wounded when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, Inouye petitioned with other Asian-Americans for the right to serve in the military. The petition was a success and he dropped out of school in order to join the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
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While serving in World War II, Inouye lost his right arm during battle in Italy near San Terenzo. Even though his unit was under attack and he was wounded by a bullet, Inouye continued to throw hand grenades at the enemy. During the attack, a grenade caught in his right arm and he had to pry it out. The right arm was later amputated in the Army hospital.
It wasn’t until 2000 that Inouye, and 21 other Japanese-American soldiers, were awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President Clinton. He applauded the soldiers for serving their country during a time when many of their own people were being mistreated and placed in relocation camps.
In 2010, Inouye started his ninth senate term, receiving an overwhelming 75% of the vote. Inouye is survived by a wife, son, and granddaughter and will forever be remembered as an American hero and a major player in Hawaii’s history.