Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sen. Edward Kennedy, Army veteran and AMVET, dies at 77
After a year-long battle with brain cancer, the second most senior U.S. Senator, Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), died last night at his home in Cape Cod.
Kennedy, who long served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and left his mark on such noteworthy military and veterans' legislation as defense appropriations for up-armored humvees, anti-IED technology, and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, was one of the most recognizable political figures in the United States and an astute leader capable of reaching across party lines.
In 1951, Kennedy enlisted in the U.S. Army and served on the honor guard at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Paris. He left the military honorably in 1953 as a private first class. Kennedy's name appears on the official membership rolls of AMVETS.
In 1991, Kennedy played an integral role in passing the bill that paved the way for women to serve as combat aviators. This first rule change ultimately set the stage for women to achieve greater equality in today's armed forces.
Kennedy is most remembered for his work championing social causes stateside, such as disabled Americans' rights, anti-discrimination, and education.
In the summer of 2008, Kennedy worked to pass the Higher Education Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008, providing significant improvements to the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Included in the 2008 act, which was signed into law by President Bush, was a provision AMVETS introduced commissioning federal grants for student-veterans' "centers of excellence" on college campuses nationwide.
AMVETS envisioned these grants as a way for colleges and universities to prepare for the next generation of leaders returning from the front lines to take advantage of their G.I. Bill benefits. AMVETS recently learned that the provision for these centers has been included in the House version of the 2010 budget for the Department of Education.
Kennedy's courageous return to the Senate last summer while battling brain cancer made the passage of the higher ed bill possible.
Kennedy is the only one of four brothers to die of natural causes. His oldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died as a bomber pilot during Operation Aphrodite in WWII, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated during his presidential campaign in Los Angeles in 1968.
Kennedy is survived by his wife Victoria Kennedy, sons Edward Jr. and Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), daughter Kara Kennedy Allen, and two stepchildren, Caroline Raclin and Curran Raclin.
To read Kennedy's New York Times obituary, Click Here.
(Photo: Sen. Edward Kennedy sits in the cockpit of an F/A-18 Hornet at Naval Air Station Miramar in California on a visit with the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1985. U.S. Navy photo, released.)