Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mourning The Loss Of Alaska’s Tough Warrior, Ted Stevens

Alaska and the nation he so loved have lost a great man... His legacy is the 49th star on the American flag.

~ Stevens family statement

We are saddened to announce the death of Senator Ted Stevens. Born November 18, 1923, Senator Stevens perished in a plane crash near Dillingham, Alaska Monday night.

He was a true patriot and public servant.

Theodore Fulton "Ted" Stevens was a United States Senator from Alaska, serving from December 24, 1968, until January 3, 2009. Stevens was President pro tempore in the 108th and 109th Congresses from January 3, 2003, to January 3, 2007. Stevens is the longest-serving Republican senator in history (Strom Thurmond served in the Senate longer, but was a Democrat until 1964) and seventh longest-serving senator in history.

Stevens was Alaska's senior senator all but 10 days of his tenure. When Stevens was replaced as President pro tem by Robert Byrd, he assumed Byrd's previous honorary role of "president pro tempore emeritus". He was only the third senator to hold the title of president pro tempore emeritus, having been preceded in this position by Byrd and Strom Thurmond.

Senator Stevens was a WWII hero:

After graduating from high school in 1942, Stevens enrolled at Oregon State University to study engineering, attending for a semester. With World War II in progress, Stevens attempted to join the Navy and serve in Naval Aviation, but failed the vision exam.

He corrected his vision through a course of prescribed eye exercises, and in 1943 he was accepted into a Army Air Force Air Cadet program at Montana State College. After scoring near the top of an aptitude test for flight training, Stevens was transferred to preflight training in Santa Ana, California; and received his wings early in 1944.

Stevens served in the China-Burma-India theater with the Fourteenth Air Force Transport Section, which supported the "Flying Tigers", from 1944 to 1946. He and other pilots in the transport section flew C-46 and C-47 transport planes, often without escort, mostly in support of Chinese units fighting the Japanese.

Stevens received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying behind enemy lines, the Air Medal, and the Yuan Hai Medal awarded by the Chinese Nationalist government. He was discharged from the Army Air Forces in March 1946.

Stevens also played a prominent role in making Alaska’s statehood a reality.

More can be found here.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Stevens family as well as the survivors and families of all who were on the plane.

Sarah Palin issued a statement today:

It’s with great sadness that Todd and I hear the reports coming in of Senator Ted Stevens’ passing in the plane crash near Dillingham. In our land of towering mountains and larger than life characters, none were larger than the man who in 2000 was voted "Alaskan of the Century." This decorated World War II pilot was a warrior and a true champion of Alaska.

In 40 years of service in the U.S. Senate, he fought tenaciously for Alaska’s future. Alaskans know how much we owe to Senator Stevens, but all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership on many issues, including the crucial energy issues that fuel American prosperity. Two years ago, he sat at my kitchen table over a salmon lunch, and we talked about our long anticipated Alaska natural gas pipeline and our mutual commitment to have the Last Frontier’s rich resources contribute to America’s quest for energy independence.

Our Senator was also known for spearheading efforts to ensure equality in education, and his Title IX legislation allowed girls to be on a level playing field in the athletic arena.

Our hearts and prayers are with the Stevens family and the families of the other victims of the crash.

- Sarah Palin

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