Wednesday, August 11, 2010
FIL-AMS MOURN DEATH OF ALASKA LAWMAKER
The Fil-Am community mourned the death of one of its staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill.
Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens died in a plane crash while on a fishing trip near Dillingham, Alaska last Monday.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens,” read a statement from the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).
“We remember the Senator as one of the strongest advocates for Filipino World War II veterans. During the debates in 2008, after the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka, Sen. Stevens kept the faith with his comrades and staunchly defended the bill that would have provided special pensions to Filipinos veterans,” explained NaFFAA chair Greg Macabenta.
He recalled that Stevens once told his colleagues “I do not get excited too many times on this floor but this bill excites me” referring to the Filipino veterans bill.
Stevens was the longest sitting Republican in the Senate.
Stevens was the only senator Alaska has ever known (it formally became a state only in 1959).
After 40 years in the Senate, he lost his re-election bid in 2008 amid charges of corruption. He was accused of accepting gifts, including the renovation of his home. He was exonerated a year later after the judge found prosecutors guilty of misconduct.
Macabenta pointed out that Stevens was one of only five World War II veterans in the Senate – Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii; Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and John Warner of Virginia.
He piloted C-47 transport planes with the renown “Flying Tigers” in the China-Burma-India theater, often crossing Japanese-controlled airspace without fighter escorts. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his feats.
Macabenta said that courage was evident even when Stevens was a lawmaker after “fighting valiantly” for the Filipino veterans bill.
The bill drew only limited support from Republicans, but Stevens was convinced a terrible injustice was committed against Filipino veterans and publicly opposed party-mates who worked against them.
“We are talking about honor, the honor of the United States,” he famously declared.
The bill eventually passed albeit in a different, watered-down form, providing a lump sum payment for Filipino World War II veterans here and in the Philippines.
Nonetheless, Macabenta said Filipinos should be grateful for Stevens’ help in the Senate.
“In a significant way, he made it possible for our aging heroes to finally get the compensation and official recognition they richly deserve,” the NaFFAA said.