The Case for Tulsi Gabbard

FILE This Nov. 6, 2012 file photo shows Iraq war veterans Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard in Honolulu. Veterans groups say the influ
FILE This Nov. 6, 2012 file photo shows Iraq war veterans Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard in Honolulu. Veterans groups say the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Congress is welcome because it comes at a time when the overall number of veterans in Congress is on a steep and steady decline. In the mid-1970s, the vast majority of lawmakers tended to be veterans. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)

When Pearl Harbor hit, Daniel Inouye was there -- as a medical volunteer aiding the injured. When our country called its young men to battle the forces of evil in Europe, Lt. Inouye was there -- rallying his men in battle despite losing most of his left arm. When Hawaii gained statehood, combat veteran Daniel Inouye was there -- vigorously representing veterans and the people of Hawaii as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Senator Inouye is an American hero. His record in Washington is unmatched. No one can possibly fill his shoes.

As Hawaii and our nation mourn his death, it's perhaps too soon to have to think of his replacement. But here we are -- it's Christmas Day and in just two days the Hawaii Democratic Party must decide upon three names to send to the Governor. In two days, the Central Committee must decide upon three Democrats who are best suited to replace a hero like Daniel Inouye. The decision will be critical as we need to look to the future, not on who we want in the U.S. Senate for the next two years but for the next two decades or longer.

The names we've heard would all be good U.S. Senators. I do not doubt that. But when I look back at Senator Inouye's story and then look at all the challenges our state and country face -- paralyzing politics, a struggling economy and the ongoing costs of war, in blood and treasure -- we need more than a good Senator. We need a great Senator -- someone with a heroic story and a fresh approach to politics.

I believe Representative-Elect Tulsi Gabbard is the right person for the job. As a Combat Veteran she has proven her courage and determination. Not only did she talk the talk, but she walked it as well. She volunteered to serve her country -- becoming the youngest person ever to serve in Hawaii's legislature but deploying to the Middle East twice, as well. Tulsi was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for her first tour in Iraq, earned a commission as an officer, and was the first woman to ever receive an award of appreciation by the Kuwaiti military.

The U.S. Senate needs more combat veterans. While this body is deciding the fate of our soldiers -- the equipment they have, how we care for them when they come home, even when we put their lives at risk -- far too few of them have actually served in battle. That number will be one less should Senator Kerry become Secretary of State.

As a combat veteran myself, I've seen how war has drained our country -- with trillions spent and thousands of lives lost or destroyed by conflict. We need a Senator who, like Senator Inouye and myself, understands this.

Becoming the first woman combat veteran in the U.S. Senate, Tulsi would have the stature to be heard in national politics and get real results for Hawaii families. While both of Hawaii's senators will have essentially no seniority, Tulsi has already proven her ability to gain the attention of the national Democratic Party, build a grassroots movement, and be heard when she fights for Hawaii. Her role as the only veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the U.S. Senate would give her an important and unique voice.

There will be those who will say that she's too young or her appointment would force a costly special election.

I see her age as an advantage. Senator Inouye's own legacy shows how important youth is to building seniority over time. And, while young, Tulsi has demonstrated her skill and abilities. The voters of Hawaii believe in her. That point was clearly proven in her win of her congressional seat by over 80 percent. As a State Legislator and Honolulu City Councilwoman, Tulsi fought for middle class families, small businesses and the environment. She's shown a unique ability to connect with all segments of our community and to bridge partisan political divides, and to get things done for middle class families. She's the type of leader we need in the U.S. Senate.

As a veteran I believe she will represent all of Hawaii's diverse communities well. Yes, she is no Senator Inouye -- no one is. But in my opinion she is a hero. We need more heroes like her in our nation's Capitol.

Allen Hoe, 62, served as a combat medic in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. His son, Nainoa K. Hoe, served as a first lieutenant infantry officer with the Army's 3rd Battalion in Mosul, Iraq. He died there on Jan. 22, 2005, at the age of 27.

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