HONOLULU – The late Sen. Daniel Inouye was remembered Sunday as an American hero whose legacy as a war veteran and longtime senator would be felt across Hawaii for years to come.
The memorial service at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was attended by about 1,000 people, including President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Hawaii’s congressional delegation and a number of other senators, Cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries.
“Daniel was the best senator among us all,” Reid told those assembled, adding later: “Whenever we needed a noble man to lean on, we turned to Sen. Dan Inouye. He was fearless.”
The cemetery, a strikingly beautiful site located in an extinct volcano, is the final resting place to thousands of World War II veterans. More than 400 members of the storied Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team — of which Inouye was a part — are buried at the site.
Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Command, said this also will be Inouye’s final resting place.
“We have lost an irreplaceable American,” he said.
Several 442nd veterans attended the Sunday morning service, the latest in a number of tributes and honors for Inouye following the 88-year-old’s Dec. 17 death from respiratory complications.
Buses that brought people to the service flashed the words “MAHALO Senator Daniel K. Inouye” — using the Hawaiian word for thank you.
A 19-gun cannon salute was fired as Inouye’s coffin arrived at the cemetery. The service also featured a flyover by F-22 military jets and the playing of “Taps” by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
Inouye’s widow, Irene, who was seated with the president and first lady Michelle Obama in the front row, dabbed her eyes as a band of bagpipes and drums band played “Danny Boy.”
Inouye was the first Japanese-American elected to both houses of Congress and the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history, at 50 years.