HONOLULU – A memorial service for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese-American elected to both houses of Congress, was held Sunday in his native state of Hawaii.
The service at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was attended by more than 1,000 people, including President Barack Obama, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, senators and veterans of the famous Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii who belonged to the combat team, the Army unit that fought in World War II, died of respiratory complications at the age of 88 on Dec. 17 at a hospital in the suburbs of Washington, after serving 49 years in the Senate, the second-longest service in U.S. history.
The attendees, who watched his body placed in a coffin wrapped with the Stars and Stripes, mourned his death while both national and Hawaiian songs were played.
“He was a shining star,” fellow Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka said at the service. “Dan Inouye is Hawaii and Hawaii is Dan Inouye.”
Inouye, born to a family of Japanese immigrants in 1924 in Honolulu, witnessed Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 when he was a high school student.
He later served in the special U.S. Army unit of Japanese-Americans and lost his right arm during a battle in Europe.
Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who attended the service as Japan’s special envoy, said that he realized again “how much Mr. Inouye had been respected by people in Hawaii.”
In addition to his influential role in national policies, Inouye is credited with improving Hawaii’s infrastructure.