Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is refusing to let a naval officer take the fall and his family pay through the nose while he rots in a Japanese prison for a horrific medical incident.
US Navy LT Ridge Alkonis was recently informed that the Department of Defense will be leaving his family with no income from his salary while he spends three years in jail. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has denied a plea from the LT and his family to allow him to continue receiving pay while he serves his sentence. Instead, Austin has elected to turn his back on the family as Christmas approaches, and Lee isn’t happy about it.
During a speech on the Senate floor, Lee let it be known how Austin was deserting the LT and his family in their time of need.
“Secretary Austin callously informed me that day that the request for the exception to policy would not be granted. I asked him why. He believed it wasn’t appropriate for the department to do that.” Lee continued by asking the hard questions. “Why is he in prison in Japan, did he steal something, did he harm someone? No, none of the above. This was not a criminal act; this was a medical emergency that resulted in a tragedy, and I’m sad that it did.”
The 23-minute speech was intense and called into question the very manner in which Austin treats those still wearing the uniform. Well known for his hard-nosed stance while in uniform, Austin has not been seen as an enlisted man’s officer, or even a fair officer for his actions while in uniform. Instead, many have regarded him as a corporate-oriented person who had his own long-term interests ahead of those serving under him.
LT Alkonis was convicted in October 2021 of negligent driving by Japanese courts following an accident earlier that year. As Alkonis outlined during his appeal, he drove through Fujinomiya following a climb up Mount Fuji that resulted in him suffering from acute mountain sickness. This resulted in his loss of consciousness which led to the accident and the death of two people. Both a general practitioner and a neurologist testified that he could have had no clue that he would suffer from this.
In Lee’s argument, the DOD should grant him an exception to policy, and allow the LT to continue to take care of his family while incarcerated for a medical emergency. “It seems to me that if ever there were an instance perfectly tailored for this statute or an absence that need to be excused as unavoidable it’s that of Lt. Ridge Alkonis.” He has also stated that if the DOD would not honor the request, they should be forced to explain to Congress why they won’t provide the exemption.
For what it’s worth, the LT’s wife has been extremely positive about this solution and expressed via social media her resolve that things will work out. She claims to have spoken to enough members of Congress to know that if Lee says since the DOD refuses to help that Congress will, and it’s reliable.
While her optimism is outstanding, the US has a great relationship with Japan. The LT is straight, white, and male. He can’t dribble a basketball on the professional level, so unlike Britney Griner the US won’t negotiate for his release. Considering that the man was actively wearing the uniform, and this was a medical emergency, the nation should have been advocating for his release. Not the release of someone who knowingly smuggled drugs into Russia.
Then again, this LT’s story doesn’t feed into the liberal agenda. Maybe that’s why Austin won’t help him or his family.