Hundreds bid aloha to Sen. Inouye at Punchbowl memorial service

Senator Daniel Akaka speech
Published: Dec. 23, 2012 at 1:31 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2012 at 8:47 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - About a thousand people, from President Obama and members of Congress to World War II veterans and everyday citizens, gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to bid aloha to Sen. Daniel Inouye at services Sunday morning.

The 88-year-old Inouye died of respiratory complications last Monday. He was the first Japanese-American elected to both houses of Congress and the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.

Many of those attending started arriving shortly after sunrise, catching shuttle buses at the Alapai Transit Center to be there.

"Get up at 3:30, got ready, came to town, stand in long line and waited," said Kaneohe resident Norma Jean Shackley. Was it worth it to be there? "Worth it, yes," she said.

For many, Inouye was their senator. For some, including World War II historian and author Pierre Moulin, Dan was also their friend. "Dan didn't serve for honor," said Moulin, in a wheelchair who used the shuttle bus to get to Punchbowl. "He was honest, and he was my hero."

President Obama arrived without presidential honors, at the request of the White House, and did not speak at the service. Instead, honors were reserved for the late senator.

A 19-gun cannon salute was fired as Inouye's coffin arrived for the service. Smoke rose into the blue sky and was seen from downtown. Several senators and cabinet secretaries were also at the service, and listened as others paid tribute.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recalled his last visit to Inouye's office, just a day before Inouye went to the hospital. "We talked as if there were lots of tomorrows," he said. "But there wouldn't be. He nor I had no inkling that in eight days he would be gone. Our visit wasn't our first, but it would be our last."

His longtime colleague, retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, said it was hard to bid farewell to someone he called his brother. Akaka also reminded those gathered about all the things he did during his more than 50 years in Congress. "Dan is a part of every community health clinic. Every National Park. Every airport. Every harbor. Every military base. Every veterans' cemetery," said Akaka. "Dan Inouye is Hawaii, and Hawaii is Dan Inouye."

Someone who called Inouye "boss" recalled a story the senator would tell about how, when he was a boy, his father would buy a koi, or carp, from Chinatown. When the fish was brought home it would thrash in the water, but would lay still when his father placed it on the cutting board to prepare it for dinner.

"Our beloved senator fought gallantly to overcome his health challenges," said Inouye's chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas. "During the last six months, he fought like a warrior, but when it was time, he went like the koi -- with discipline and dignity."

Military honors were rendered, including a "missing man" flyover and a 21-gun salute. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana played "Taps." The Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii played "Danny Boy," a song linked with the senator, as the pallbearers carefully folded the American flag that had been draped over Inouye's casket. One flag was presented to Inouye's widow, Irene; the President gave her a quick hug after she received the flag. Another flag was given to Inouye's son, Ken.

Sabas concluded, "Let us pick up the baton that our beloved senator has laid at our feet and carry forward in his name and for our beloved Hawaii."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Stories:

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.