Akaka talks veterans rights in nationwide broadcast

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, addressed the nation in honor of America’s veterans during the Memorial Day Democratic Radio Address yesterday.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked Akaka, a World War II veteran and ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, to deliver the address because of his long history as a champion for veterans’ rights.

“Time and again, Sen. Akaka has been an effective leader for America’s veterans,” Reid said.

“As a veteran, Memorial Day holds special meaning for me,” Akaka states in a press release. “I am humbled at this opportunity to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms.”

Akaka began his address a little after 5 a.m., HST, calling Memorial Day “a sacred holiday.”

“Like veterans of all wars, I have vivid memories of those who served but did not come back,” Akaka said.

He touched on the fact that American pays a heavy price for freedom, a fact the people of Hawai‘i were reminded of last week when three more Kanehohe Bay Marines died in Iraq.

The 3rd battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment has lost eleven Marines since it deployed in March, Akaka said.

“My prayers go out to their families, as well as to all those who have lost loved ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

Akaka reminded listeners that the cost of freedom is measured in more than lives lost.

“It is also measured in how we take care of those who’ve served and are serving today,” he said.

As the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Akaka said taking care of America’s troops and veterans is his top priority.

“America’s veterans gave us their best in service,” he said, “We must always give them ours.”

One of Akaka’s pet bills, a $430-million increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, was adopted in the Senate last week, with much of the money to go to new veteran’s centers, hospitals and mental care.

“Health care for America’s heroes is not the place to cut corners, which is why I have always been against imposing burdensome enrollment fees and increasing the co-pays for those in the VA system,” he said. “We need mandatory funding for veterans health care, not mandated fees imposed on veterans who need care.”

Akaka said it is the responsibility of all Americans to support soldiers.

“In good times and bad, our nation’s commitment to those who wear the uniform must never waver,” he said. “From the day recruits join the military, through their years of service, to the day they leave this Earth, America has promises to keep.”

He mentioned several ways to uphold those promises, like providing the best equipment, body armor, training and support available, as well as taking care of those who come home and the families of those who don’t.

“These are promises the United States government kept with my generation after World War II, and they are promises Democrats are fighting to ensure are kept today,” Akaka said.

“Memorial Day should be a time to consider the meaning of service and sacrifice, and to honor the memory of those we’ve lost as well as our obligation to veterans still with us today,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., says in the release. “That’s why (we) chose Daniel Akaka to address our nation.”

• Ford Gunter, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or fgunter@kauaipubco.com.

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