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Tribute to Senators

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


TRIBUTE TO SENATORS -- (Senate - November 20, 2008)

TED STEVENS

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, this may well be my last opportunity to speak on the floor of the Senate. I see my senior colleague, the senior Senator from Alaska. I come for the purpose of saying some remarks about several colleagues, including my longtime friend. If it is convenient, I will take the 5 minutes I have just been granted by the Presiding Officer because I have to go out to the CIA for a meeting that has been established for some time. I shall leave shortly after I finish my remarks.

Again, I see my friend from Alaska, and it evokes many long years of interesting and happy memories. I recall so well that when I came here 30 years ago to the Senate, Senator Stevens was one of those who sort of took the ``youngsters,'' as we called ourselves in those days, under his wing. He had been here 11 years, I think, when I arrived. I remember serving under the Senator when he was the whip. I remember that whip; he exercised it judicially but with determination. All in our freshman class remember that very well.

I suppose what I remember most is that I had a very modest and brief tour of military service in World War II. I was only 17. I went in the last year of the war, as did all the kids on my block. We joined and went in. I don't know if I ever shared this story with the Senator. In those days, the boys on the block who were a year or two older than me had already gone in and started military service and were coming back on leave to visit their families. Some were severely wounded and having to stay for long periods of hospitalization. It was a dramatic period in American history.

I remember the Army Air Corps and those fellows who would come back having flown their missions in Europe, Southeast Asia, north Africa, or wherever the case may be. All of us who were 16 and 17 and getting ready to take up our responsibilities stood in awe because the nearest thing we had connected with an airplane was building model airplanes. We built all the military model airplanes, and we knew them by heart. There were those magnificent flying jackets, and they were the envy of all of us. I tried to join the Army Air Corps and went down and signed up and joined the Navy. As happenstance would have it, the Navy first called me in. I had a modest career with my generation in the training command.

The record reflects that Senator Stevens, at a very young age, displayed courage, determination, wisdom, and leadership. His service in the Army Air Corps in World War II won him two Distinguished Flying Crosses, several Air Medals, and other decorations for flying those aircraft. He and I have reminisced many times over the different types of planes he flew--primarily the old C-47, if my recollection serves me--and flying over the hump, which was a perilous, dangerous mission not only from enemy resistance, but if anything malfunctioned on that plane, there was no landing field below you, just miles and miles of rugged mountain terrain, much of it totally uninhabitable.

I think the Senator was under 21 when he flew those missions, and his crew exemplified the courage of the World War II generation. He, among many, deserves credit as being a member of the ``greatest generation.''

In subsequent years, when I came to the Senate and joined the Armed Services Committee, it was my privilege to travel to many places in this world with Ted Stevens to visit the men and women in the Armed Forces. How many times did we work together on this floor--I as an authorizer and him as an appropriator--shaping that annual bill which I regard with a sense of humility as the most important bill this body passes every year; that bill that cares for the men and women of the Armed Forces and provides the economic resources for them to train, to modernize, and to preserve and protect the freedom of this Nation. Speaking on behalf of the men and women of the Armed Forces, they are grateful to Senator Stevens for all he has done for them through his distinguished career in the Senate.

I yield the floor.


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