By David Lake Clayton, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Gen. Eric Shinseki was formally honored today in a public
ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., as the new Army chief of staff.
Shinseki, who was born on Kauai, is the top-ranking
Asian American in U.S. military history.
A grandson of Japanese immigrants,By Pete Pichaske
who was born and raised on Kauai,
is the Army's new chief of staff
Phillips News Service
WASHINGTON -- With cannons booming, the Army band playing and dozens of relatives from Hawaii looking on, Gen. Eric Shinseki, grandson of Japanese immigrants to Kauai, was formally honored today as Army chief of staff.
Shinseki, 56, the highest ranking Asian American in U.S. military history, was sworn in yesterday in a brief ceremony.
Today, he was welcomed to his new post in a public ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., complete with speeches from top military brass and a full honor review.
Shinseki is the chief who will lead the Army into the 21st century, said Army Secretary Louis Caldera. "In Gen. Shinseki, President Clinton has chosen as chief a soldier of extraordinary courage and determination...He has chosen a leader of rock-solid integrity."
"On the day he was born, Rick was considered an enemy of the state," said Defense Secretary William Cohen, recalling how in 1942, Japanese Americans were designated as enemy aliens. "And now we have the privilege of installing him as the 34th chief of staff of the Army."
Shinseki recalled growing up in Kauai, hearing his uncles talk around the dinner table of their military service during World War II.
"Because of what they did, I have lived my life without suspicion ... with full rights and privileges.
"I was a kid who left Hawaii to go to the military academy...I am humbled to stand here today as the 34th chief of staff of the Army."
Among the several hundred people Shinseki stood before, were about 55 family members, several carrying leis, who came from Hawaii for the ceremony.
"I'm feeling fantastic," said older brother Paul Shinseki, who lives on Kauai. "We knew he was a special person. But we didn't know how much he would attain."
Asked if she was proud of her son, 87-year-old Fudeko Shinseki, also of Kauai, smiled. "Of course I am," she said.
Shinseki is a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice -- once so badly he had to fight to remain in the service.
From July 1997 to November 1998, he commanded the U.S. forces in Bosnia. Since then, he has served as the Army's vice chief of staff.
Hawaiis leadingBy Gregg K. Kakesako
With four stars on his shoulder, Gen. Eric "Ric" Shinseki may be the highest-ranking Asian American in the military, but there have been other Hawaii residents who nearly reached that mark.
Five current or former residents reached three-star rank before Shinseki, who today became the first Asian American to command a service.
Navy Vice Adm. Bob Kihune, interim Bishop Estate trustee, who retired in 1994 after serving 35 years.Shinseki was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1996.
Army Lt. Gen. Allen Ono, now an American Savings Bank vice president, who retired in 1990 after 35 years of service.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Benjamin Webster, who graduated from Punahou School in 1928, died in 1987.
Army Lt. Gen. Stanley "Swede" Larsen, a 1933 Punahou and 1939 West Point graduate, who retired from the Army in 1972 and now lives on the mainland.
Army Lt. Gen. George Cantlay, a 1938 Punahou and 1943 West Point graduate, who retired in 1979 after serving as deputy chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military committee.
Kihune, who was born in Lahaina and graduated from Kamehameha Schools and Annapolis, in 1988 became the first Hawaiian American to attain a three-star rank in the Navy.
Ono noted that many general and flag officers also have taken up residency in Hawaii after leaving the military and take pride in calling the islands their home.
These include former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Fred Weyand, retired First Hawaiian Bank executive and Damon Estate trustee; Army Gen. David Bramlett, retired commander of Army Forces in the United States; and former Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Thomas Hayward.
Ono, who was commissioned through the University of Hawaii's ROTC program in 1955, said he sees Shinseki as a good role model.
"He's going to be the first in a succession of general officers and flag officers from Hawaii," said Ono, who as a three-star general rose to become head of the Army's personnel system.
Ono kept track of Army officers from the islands as they climbed up through the ranks.
"They had the same thirst for knowledge ... the willingness to make sacrifices and to hold on to certain values," said Ono.
"We were all proud of our service and proud to be Hawaiians."