[Congressional Record Volume 148, Number 127 (Wednesday, October 2, 2002)]
[Senate]
[Pages S9828-S9830]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                      IN MEMORY OF HARRY KIZIRIAN

  Mr. REED. Mr. President, Rhode Island has lost a valiant son, the 
Nation has lost a heroic Marine and thousands of my neighbors have lost 
a true and faithful friend.
  On September 13, 2002, Harry Kizirian died. His name in Rhode Island 
is synonymous with selfless service, love of country, commitment to 
family and unshakeable loyalty to his faith and to his friends.
  Harry was born on July 13, 1925 at 134 Chad Brown Street in 
Providence, RI. He was the proud son of Armenian immigrants. His father 
and mother, Toros and Horopig Kizirian, came to America

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to seek a better life for themselves and their family. They had endured 
the horror of the Armenian genocide, each losing their spouse and many 
in their families. In America, they hoped to find the opportunity and 
the tolerance that is so rare in the world. In their son, Harry, they 
would see the fulfillment of the great promise that America offers to 
the brave and the noble of heart.
  Harry's youth in the vibrant Armenian community of Chad Brown Street 
was profoundly changed when, at the age of 15, his father died. Harry 
became the man of the house. While he continued his education at Mount 
Pleasant High School, he worked lugging beef and unloading freight cars 
at a meat packing plant on Canal Street. Despite his long hours of 
work, he still threw the hammer and put the shot for Mount Pleasant 
High School and captained the football team to boot.
  A high school football referee, impressed with Harry's dedication and 
demeanor, suggested that he seek work at the Providence post office. 
Harry secured a temporary position sweeping floors as he finished his 
last two years of high school.
  Harry Kizirian came of age as America faced the danger and challenge 
of World War II. Like so many of his generation, Harry did not hesitate 
to serve. He joined the United States Marine Corps the day after he 
graduated from high school.
  After his training, Harry found himself in the first assault wave 
attacking Okinawa. He was 19 years old. While leading a fire team in 
the assault, he charged an enemy position that was pinning down a 
Marine platoon. He received multiple fragmentation wounds in the arms 
and shoulders but continued to press the attack. Eventually, he was 
evacuated for treatment. A month later, he returned to action.
  And, he would see fearsome action in the climatic battles to secure 
Okinawa.
  In June of 1945, Harry's unit moved to attack entrenched Japanese 
soldiers along a ridgeline. Corporal Kizirian observed six Marine 
stretcher bearers pinned down by enemy fire as they were trying to 
evacuate a wounded Marine. With utter disregard for his own safety, 
Harry placed himself in the line of fire and single-handedly attacked 
the enemy emplacement. Although wounded in the leg and groin, he 
continued the attack by dragging his body along by his elbows. He 
overwhelmed the position and killed the 12 enemy defenders.
  For his service and sacrifice on Okinawa, Harry Kizirian was awarded 
the Navy Cross, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star with V device for 
Valor, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Citation and the 
Rhode Island Cross, the State's highest award for valor.
  Harry was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1946 and returned to 
Rhode Island and to the post office. But he still bore the scars of 
battle. For 4 years after his discharge, Harry was in and out of 
Veteran's Hospitals for treatment of his wounds.
  Harry's return to civilian ranks gave him a chance to meet the love 
of his life, Hazel Serabian. Hazel tells the story that, the first time 
she saw Harry, he was staring at her from the cover of The New York 
Times Sunday Magazine. He was featured as one of the young heroes of 
the Pacific battles. She later met this handsome Marine as he stopped 
in her hometown en route to visit the family of a fellow Marine who had 
died in combat. In my humble opinion, it was love at first sight and 
love for evermore.
  Their love produced a family of wonderful sons and daughters: Tom and 
Richard, Joanne, Shakay and Janice. They continue the proud tradition 
of Harry and Hazel as public-spirited citizens in their own right. And 
the newest generation of Kizirians includes eight grandchildren who 
grew under the watchful eye and enormous love of their grandfather.
  Harry, with a young family to feed, applied himself with his 
characteristic sincerity and diligence at the post office. But he 
brought something else and something special to his job: a joy of 
working with the men and women of the Postal Service and of helping to 
serve the people of Rhode Island.
  Harry became the Postmaster in Providence in 1961 and led the Postal 
Service in Rhode Island at a time of great change. Rhode Island was one 
of the first postal districts in the country to build a central, 
automated postal facility. Harry was the key individual in opening this 
facility and making it work.
  His leadership style was hands-on and personal. He knew the 
Providence post office's thousand employees by their first names. He 
patrolled the facility in his customary attire of suit and running 
shoes as he made sure that the work was done and the workers were 
recognized. His co-workers were a larger extension of his own family, 
and he followed their ups and downs with the same interest and 
involvement that he lavished on his own family. He established a bond 
of trust and love that still today is unique and enduring.
  In 1986, the Postal Service announced that Harry would be 
``reorganized'' out of the job. The announcement led to a flurry of 
activity by Senator John Chafee and Senator Claiborne Pell but to no 
avail. The Postal Service did not relent. The announcement was greeted 
by his co-workers with weeping. They weren't losing just an admired 
boss; they were losing a friend.
  In October of 1986, two thousand of his friends and co-workers 
honored him at a testimonial.
  One of his dearest friends, Senator John O. Pastore, paid him a 
special tribute. Forty years before, then Governor John O. Pastore 
pinned the Rhode Island Cross on Harry Kizirian. In earlier remarks, 
Senator Postore said simply, ``I have never met in my life anyone who 
has had a bad word to say about Harry Kizirian,'' And Senator Pastore's 
words were and are beyond reproach.
  I was honored to be appointed to West Point by Senator Pastore. Both 
Harry and I shared a profound respect for this great man who served 
with extraordinary distinction in the Senate.
  Harry's departure from the Postal Service merely redirected his great 
passion for public service to numerous other civic endeavors, including 
Big Brothers, the Veterans Home in Bristol, RI and the Heart 
Association.
  When asked once about his extraordinary generosity and public 
service, Harry said, ``You know, the track is short; when you can help 
people, do it.''
  I really got to know Harry in 1990 when I campaigned for my first 
term in Congress.
  I knew about the legendary Harry Kizirian; everyone in Rhode Island 
knew about and admired Harry. I met him several times at meetings of 
postal workers. He still stayed close to his co-workers. By this time, 
Harry's sight was impaired. He would sit at the table and you would 
approach him for a word. He grasped your hand with authority and his 
voice was strong, but his whole demeanor was one of gentleness and 
consideration.
  I will never forget at one of these meetings days before the 
election. As postal worker after postal worker approached him to thank 
him for countless kindnesses and asked what they could do for him, 
Harry said, ``if you want to do something for me, vote for this kid, 
Reed.''
  I have never received a greater or more meaningful endorsement. His 
faith in me gave me great faith in myself. But, after all, that is what 
Harry did all of his life. He made us stronger and better because he 
was behind us and shared with us his strength and his decency.
  In May of 1996, Rhode Islanders had a chance to honor Harry. On that 
day, the central Post Office in Providence, the ``house that Harry 
built'', was dedicated as the ``Harry Kizirian Post Office Building.'' 
Senator John H. Chafee sponsored the legislation in the Senate, and I 
sponsored the legislation in the House.
  We were honored to have General Chuck Krulak, the Commandant of the 
Marine Corps, as a principal speaker. General Krulak captured the 
essence of Harry Kizirian when he said ``Harry was motivated by a 
selfless desire to help his fellow countrymen.'' General Krulak added a 
sentiment that we all felt. ``It is impossible not to admire, to 
respect and yes, coming from this tough Marine, to love Harry Kizirian. 
You have made a difference.''
  A few days after I learned of Harry's death, I was attending the Fall 
Harvest Festival in my hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island. I 
encountered a gentleman and we began to talk. He quickly told me that 
we had both lost a good

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friend, Harry Kizirian. The gentleman was a postal worker who had spent 
many years working for Harry. With gestures more than words, he 
expressed the sense of loss tempered by love and admiration that we all 
felt; a fitting epitaph, the unadorned and heartfelt words and 
sentiments of one of his workers, more poignant and profound then any 
sermon or speech.
  When our colleague John Chafee died, I recalled these lines from the 
Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, fitting words for another Marine who 
goes to his rest.

     The man is gone who guided ye, unweary, through the long 
           bitter way.
     Ye by the waves that close in our sad nation,
     Be full of sudden fears,
     The man is gone for his lonely station . . .
     Mourn--and then onward, there is no returning
     He guides ye from the tomb;
     His memory now is a tall pillar, burning
     Before us in the gloom!

  Harry's memory warms our heart and lights our way.
  He was a man who saw hard times, but refused to allow them to 
extinguish his generous spirit. He was a man who saw war in all its 
horror, but refused to surrender his soul to its brutality. He was a 
strong man, not for the sake of intimidation, but because he knew that 
true strength allows a man to be truly compassionate. He was humble. 
His greatest source of pride was the success of others, particularly 
his family. His memory, his example, sustains us and inspires us.
  I close with the words of a song that I am sure Harry knew.

     If the Army and the Navy
     Ever look on Heaven's scenes
     They will find the streets are guarded by
     United States Marines

  Harry Kizirian, United States Marine Corps, has joined that Heavenly 
guard mount.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I did not know Senator Reed's friend, but 
after listening to what he said, I feel as though I did know him. The 
distinguished senior Senator from Rhode Island is fortunate to have had 
such a friend, but I think his friend was fortunate to know Senator 
Reed. I know the distinguished Presiding Officer, the Senator from 
Georgia, did not mind the reference to the U.S. Marine Corps. I saw the 
smile on his face when that reference was made.

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