‘We will not give up on him’: Family of U.S. Navy lieutenant imprisoned in Japan calls on Biden to help
Sen. Mike Lee urges Biden to meet with Ridge Alkonis’ wife and help bring him home
Standing outside the U.S. capitol alongside the family of a U.S. Navy lieutenant imprisoned in Japan, Utah Sen. Mike Lee called on President Joe Biden to meet with the lieutenant’s wife, hear his story and help bring him home.
“Lt. Ridge Alkonis is a hero. Someone who’s served his country well ... he’s one of the best and the brightest. And we need him. We need him, and (his wife) Brittany and their children need him back in the United States,” Lee said during the rally Wednesday.
Lee spoke while standing in front of Alkonis’ supporters and family members, who wore matching blue shirts and held signs reading “Bring Ridge Home.”
While urging Japan, a U.S. ally, to cooperate for the sake of its relationship with the U.S., Lee also “implored” Biden to meet with Brittany Alkonis and listen to her story.
“As a military father, I’m confident when (Biden) meets Brittany Alkonis, all she needs is 10 minutes, when he meets her, when he hears his story, this story will touch him deeply and motivate him to action,” Lee said. “Not only as president of the United States, but also and especially as a military father.”
Alkonis is currently serving what his family believes is an unjustifiable three-year prison sentence in Japan after he was involved in a car accident resulting from a medical emergency that left two people dead.
Alkonis reported to prison in July, convicted of negligent driving in the deaths of an 85-year-old Japanese woman and her 54-year-old son-in-law on May 29, 2021, while the family was driving down Mount Fuji after a day trip.
A Japanese judge determined that Alkonis had fallen asleep at the wheel and lost control of his vehicle, which plowed into pedestrians and parked cars in a restaurant parking lot two hours from Yokosuka Naval Base, where he was serving as anti-submarine warfare officer.
But U.S. Navy investigators determined that Alkonis suffered from acute mountain sickness and lost consciousness. His wife and children said that he was not sleepy and appeared to black out. They said that once he passed out, he was unresponsive to their screams and one daughter’s kicks. He remained unconscious even during the crash itself.
Since his imprisonment, Brittany Alkonis has been fighting to bring her husband home. She’s spent weeks lobbying Washington, D.C., to help her. Lee and the Alkonis family’s congressman, Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., have joined their fight.
“We are not going to give up,” said Jonathan Franks, spokesman for the Alkonis family, adding that Brittany Alkonis has spent weeks home-schooling her kids “on a picnic blanket outside the press gate at the White House for several weeks.”
She has “no intention of stopping anytime soon,” Franks said. “So we are hopeful that at some point, she will simply be invited inside to have a substantive conversation, or that somebody in the executive branch — anybody — would have a direct conversation with her. I think her husband’s exemplary service deserves that.”
Wednesday marks the second time the Alkonis family has traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about Ridge Alkonis’ case and call for Biden to intervene.
Lee said he’s in communication with the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Justice “as we evaluate ways to bring Ridge home, and to bring him home quickly.”
“It’s now been 53 days since Ridge has been taken away from our family,” Brittany Alkonis said during Wednesday’s rally. “Mr. President, all we are asking for is for you to please meet with me. Please allow my children and I just a few minutes of your time. ... My children miss their father dearly.”
Her voice cracked with emotion when she continued. “The pain that I see when I look into their eyes every single day is palpable. And it only grows. They need their dad back. This week is our oldest daughter’s birthday. All she wants is to have her dad home.”