(Via Ho’okele News)
15th Wing Public Affairs
A 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III was dedicated “Spirit of Daniel Inouye” Aug. 20 in memory of local and national hero Sen. Daniel Inouye during a ceremony at hangar 19 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
In keeping with Air Force naming tradition, aircraft tail-number 5147 received the “Spirit of”-name to honor the late senator’s contributions to the state of Hawaii and the United States of America. It also recognized his extraordinary efforts in support of the military and pivotal role in bringing the C-17 program to Hawaii.
“The United States Air Force owns and maintains 223 C-17 aircraft, and only five have been named after a specific individual,” said Col. Randall Huiss, 15th Wing commander. “Senator Inouye is now part of this highly esteemed group, which now includes four Medal of Honor recipients, a USO hero, and a 48-year member of Congress.”
The formal naming process began in March and the 15th Wing just recently received final approval from the vice chief of staff of the Air Force, after receiving lower-level approvals from Pacific Air Forces and Air Mobility Command headquarters.
“They [the honorees] all have different background and stories, but they all have this in common: they are true American heroes and patriots,” said Huiss.
Guest speaker Maj. Gen. Paul McGillicuddy, Pacific Air Forces vice commander, said the long list of Inouye’s accomplishments showcase the fortitude and resilience he possessed.
“We are a nation bound by principles and ideas and Sen. Inouye dedicated his life to those principles,” he said.
This particular C-17 is also very characteristic of the spirit of service that Sen. Inouye represented, having been used to evacuate displaced persons and transport food, water and relief supplies to the Philippines during Operation Damayan last year.
Inouye’s military service began in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service with this unit in the Rome-Arno Campaign of 1944, where he was nearly fatally wounded by a gunshot wound to the chest. In 1945, Inouye lost his right arm while leading an assult near Terenzo, Italy. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery and heroism for additional actions in 1945, though it was later upgraded to a Medal of Honor in 2000.
Inouye swapped his military career for a career in politics in 1954 when he was elected to serve in the Hawaii territorial legislature. He later went on to serve as Hawaii’s first U.S. representative, followed by nine terms in the U.S. Senate. From 2010 to his death in 2012, Inouye served as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, making him the highest ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history.
The ceremony was hosted by Huiss and presided over by McGillicuddy. Other special guests include Irene Hirano Inouye, Sen. Inouye’s widow, and members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, with whom Sen. Inouye served during his time in the military.