Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has died.
Inouye was the second-longest serving senator in American history, representing the state of Hawaii in Congress for as long as there has been the state of Hawaii. Inouye was also a war hero and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Here, via TPM, is the citation:
SECOND LIEUTENANT DANIEL K. INOUYE, UNITED STATES ARMY, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
For a less-restrained account, see the entry on Inouye at “Badass of the Week,” which includes this detail:
When the men in his unit came to the hospital and recounted the events to Inouye, his exact words were, “No, that can’t be … you’d have to be insane to do all that.”
As a Japanese American, Inouye was classified as an “enemy alien” after Pearl Harbor, but as soon as he was allowed, he volunteered for the Army to serve in World War II. Here is a short video of Inouye discussing his enlistment in Ken Burns’ documentary “The War”:
Think of how polarized the U.S. Senate has become. Then read this statement by the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on lifelong Democrat Inouye: “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.”
David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement notes that Inouye was also an early and ardent supporter of LGBT rights. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and was a co-sponsor of ENDA. Inouye was also instrumental in passing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Badash relays Inouye’s statement on passage of the repeal:
Finally, all brave men and women who want to put on the uniform of our great nation and serve in the armed services may do so without having to hide who they are. My only regret is that nearly 13,000 men and women were expelled from the military during the 17 years that this discriminatory policy was in place. In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have risked their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II and many of them were killed in combat. Those men were heroes. And once again, heroes will be allowed to defend their country, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Inouye led by example, but he did expect something in return. He expected others to be granted the same opportunities he had been given, without discrimination.