Legacy Inouye bequeathed to Japanese Americans

<고 대니엘 이노우에 상원의원 - The late Senator Daniel Inouye>
<고 대니엘 이노우에 상원의원 - The late Senator Daniel Inouye>

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki made memorial speech for Senator Daniel Inouye’s funeral service at Washington DC national cathedral on December 21, 2012. Senator Inouye passed away on December 17. The followings are Secretary Shinseki’s full transcript of his memorial speech. 

Irene, Kenny, Members of The Inouye Family, All of us expresses our deepest condolences for your loss of this good and great American. 

President Obama, Vice President Biden, President Clinton, Distinguished members of the congress, others who have gathered here today to honor the legacy of Daniel K. Inouye.

This morning we celebrate the well-purposed life of a patriot, an American patriot. A life defined by courage, by service to country, by sacrifice for others - Soldier, senator, statesman, but down deep always a patriot of enormous resolve and principle. 

This is a compelling story of what it means to be American.  Dan Inouye had a profound impact on so many lives, including mine.  His extraordinary accomplishments are the stuff of legend in battle tested in World War II. Despite severe wounds prevailed in combat, recipient of our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, distinguished Senator from Hawaii, president pro tem of the Senate. 

His life also exemplified the qualities most revered by his community; quite humility, respect for others, standing on principles that matter, family, service to community. A modest man who was assertive in doing what was right. 

When America was plunged into the crucible of world War II, nowhere was the attack on pearl harbor more keenly felt than in the Japanese-American community. It’s difficult today to recall the full intensity of fear, of confusion, of suspicion, of recrimination, even hatred that emerged in the days and weeks and months following that surprise attack 71 years ago. 

And despite the clear injustice in evicting and relocating so many in the Japanese community, second generation Americans of Japanese ancestry, ‘Nisei’(二世, "second generation") demanded the right to defend this country in the time of war like other American citizens. 

And to our country’s credit, their voices were heard, leading to the creation of all ‘Nisei’ units commanded by Caucasian officers. Courage, prowess in battle, trust in one another and determination made these units legendary; the 100th infantry battalion, the 442nd regimental combat team, the military intelligent service (MIS). 

These were not just good units or unique because of ethnic homogeneity. They were premier fighting units among the best in US history. The soldiers of the 442nd regimental combat team, the Go for Broke, served with such distinction that 21 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor. No other regiment in U.S. Army has the distinction, given size and length of service. 

Their legacy is a drum beat of loyalty, of courage, honor, dedication and sacrifice. Dan Inouye served in the 442nd at an infantryman, enlisting in 1943 at age 18. Within a year he was promoted to sergeant. His performance in combat led to a battlefield commissioned second lieutenant in 1944 at age 20. Less than a year later while leading his platoon in an attack on enemy machine gun positions, he was grievously wounded and permanently disabled. 

His actions on 21 April 1945 in San Terenzo, Italy were a towering example of strength, of stamina, courage and determination for which he received one of the 21 Medals of Honor awarded to ‘Go For Broke’ soldiers. 

Dan Inouye and other Nisei veterans returned from war having achieved something monumental, something, as we say, lager than themselves. And they sensed they had earned the right to take larger roles in their communities. They also came home tolerant of views and politics different than their own. 

A sentiment born of the intolerance they had experienced after pearl harbor but more keenly felt after the horrors they witnessed in liberating Dachau(the first of the Nazi concentration camps). And they understood the importance of good citizenship, of fair play, hard work, of respect for others and for our flag. 

I had relatives who like Dan Inouye, served in these storied units. Characteristic of them all was rarely if ever speaking about what they had done in the war. And from them my generation learned to find virtue and humility and a nobility of hard work and the values of family and the confidence that we in America could achieve anything. 

They taught us to hope and to dream and then to do something about it. Dan Inouye’s service helped remove all doubt about the citizenship and loyalty of all Americans of Japanese Ancestry. That is the legacy he and his generation bequeathed to me and mine. It influenced the way I was able to live my life. I would never have had the opportunity to serve as the chief of staff of our Army had he and the others not purchased back for me in blood my birthright to compete fully without any question about my loyalty. 

This morning I salute a friend who was more than heroic in battle, more than strong enough in enduring the terrible wounds of war, more than determined in overcoming injustice and more than generous in sharing his enormous gifts with me and with others. 

Dan Inouye and the men of these legendary units sacrificed so much to give us all the opportunities we have. 

There is great comfort for me in these reminders as we often say we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And I have had the broadest of shoulders to stand on. Aloha(=Hello), Senator. Aloha (=Goodbye) and Mahalo (=Thank you), Thank you. 





Eric ShinsekiSecretary of Veterans Affairs 

KAmerican Post 

2012-12-22 10:08:12

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