(Senate - December 08, 2004)

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[Page S12059]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


 Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a 
man of remarkable courage, compassion, and patriotism and to join 
Nevadans and Americans in mourning the loss of American patriot and 
former Marine Richard K. Sorenson.
  A shining example of just how one individual can make a difference is 
found in the life story of Richard K. ``Rick'' Sorenson.
  Born the 28th day of August in 1924, Sorenson tried unsuccessfully to 
enlist in the Navy on the day after Pearl Harbor. He was only 17 at the 
time, and his parents refused to give their permission. He finished his 
junior year in high school, but the next fall, the day after football 
season ended, he and some of his teammates joined the Marine Corps.
  Little did Rick Sorenson know, but he would soon make history.
  On February 1, 1944, at the age of 19, Private Sorenson and his five 
man machine gun squad found themselves part of the amphibious assault 
of Namur, a small island in the Kwajalein atoll which was defended by 
4,000 Japanese soldiers fighting from heavy concrete fortifications.
  At dawn the following morning, the Japanese counterattacked 
Sorenson's position in what he later called a ``full-fledged banzai 
charge.'' His squad had been fighting for its life for half an hour 
when a Japanese soldier got close enough to throw a grenade in their 
midst. Sorenson's first impulse was to jump to the other side of the 
concrete foundation, but he instantly realized that his buddies would 
take the impact and that the entire squad would be overrun, so he threw 
himself on the grenade and took the full force of the explosion.
  For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation was 
signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and read, in part: ``For conspicuous 
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the 
call of duty . . . Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his 
own safety, Private Sorenson hurled himself upon the deadly weapon, 
heroically taking the full impact of the explosion. As a result of his 
gallant action, he was severely wounded, but the lives of his comrades 
were saved. His great personal valor and exceptional spirit of self-
sacrifice in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the 
highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.''
  Sorenson would undergo six operations over the next nine months. But 
he survived and went on to graduate from college, marry, and raise a 
family. He was also recalled to active duty with the Marines in 1950 
during the Korean War and was commissioned a first lieutenant.
  After eventually leaving the Marines for good in 1955, he returned to 
civilian life and pursued a career as an insurance underwriter before 
finally joining the Veterans' Administration. In 1978 he transferred to 
Reno, NV, and assumed duties as Director of Veterans Affairs for all of 
Nevada and nine counties in California. He retired in 1985 but remained 
a resident of Reno until his passing several months ago.
  Those who lived through World War II are often referred to as our 
Greatest Generation. And that Greatest Generation is well represented 
in the life story of Rick Sorenson. He was not only a battle-tested 
Marine but he also was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. In 
his vocation he served other veterans, and in his free time he was 
active in community affairs.
  Simply stated, the world is a better place because of Rick Sorenson.
  To Rick's wife Milli I offer the condolences and the admiration of 
Nevadans and Americans. This great nation that Rick Sorenson risked his 
life for and lived his life for will always be grateful for his