Thursday, November 18, 2004

3 more Hawaii
troops die in Iraq

Two soldiers and a Marine
are killed in separate incidents

Their deaths raise the toll of
service members with isle ties to 40


Pfc. Jose Flores-Meija: Killed Tuesday in Mosul, he is survived by his wife and newborn son

Forty people with Hawaii ties have died in the Middle East and Afghanistan since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

The latest three, two Schofield Barracks soldiers and a Kaneohe Marine, were killed this week in Iraq.

They are:

>> Army Pfc. Jose Ricardo Flores-Meija, 21, of Santa Clarita, Calif., who was killed Tuesday in Mosul when his convoy was hit by a homemade bomb. He was a truck driver assigned to 24th Transportation Company, 524th Support Battalion, 45th Corps Support Group.

>> Army Spc. Daniel James McConnell, 27, of Duluth, Minn., who died Monday in Kirkuk in a vehicle accident. He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.

>> Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, 25, of San Diego, who died Monday as the battle for Fallujah began to wind down. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, which was in Iraq for a little more than a month when he was killed.


Spc. Daniel McConnell: His family is saddened but proud of his service, his aunt says

Military officials notified Peralta's family of his death on Monday, according to KNSD TV in San Diego.

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Rafael's younger brother Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew," he told the station.

The next day, both Ricardo Peralta and Rafael's younger sister Karen received letters he wrote to them before he was killed, according to KNSD.

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

"(He was) a brave man, fighting for everyone's freedom and a loving brother; I'll never forget him, a hero," Ricardo Peralta said.

In his letter to Karen, Rafael promised to get her a cell phone for doing well in school. He said he was coming back.

"I wanted him to come back," Karen Peralta said. "How come some people come back and my brother didn't?"

Marine Corps officials in Hawaii said Peralta enlisted in April 2000 and trained to become a rifleman at the School of Infantry in Camp Pendleton, Calif., before his assignment to Kaneohe last December.

Peralta is also survived by his mother and another sister.

McConnell's aunt, Sue Roper, told the Associated Press in Duluth that McConnell was home on leave a few weeks ago. He graduated from Al Brook High School in 1996. She said his body will be flown to the United States tomorrow.

"I really think that he went into this with good intentions," Roper said yesterday. "I can't say that he felt that he had to join a cause, but I really feel that he wanted to do the right thing, that he wanted to serve his country."


Sgt. Rafael Peralta: He trained to become a rifleman before his assignment to Kaneohe

Roper said her family is hurt by McConnell's death but proud of his service.

Services will be held Tuesday, and McConnell will be buried in Union Cemetery in Hermantown. McConnell is survived by two daughters: Riley, 5, and Cearra, 2. He enlisted in October 2002 and came to Hawaii in March 2003.

Flores-Meija is survived by wife Laura and newborn son Gabriel. He joined the Army in May 2003 and arrived at Schofield Barracks in October 2003.

In the two-week old battle for Fallujah, four Marines and one sailor based at Kaneohe have been killed.

Military officials in Iraq say U.S. and Iraqi forces have regained control of Fallujah but are still battling pockets of insurgents. As soon as the city settles down, U.S. and Iraqi officials say they plan to bring in a new government, including a new mayor, police chief and thousands of police.

The deaths in Iraq of people with Hawaii ties now number 18 soldiers, one sailor, 12 Marines and one civilian.

One soldier was in Kuwait last year.

In Afghanistan, seven 25th Division soldiers have died since the unit arrived there in March for a year-long tour. There are about 12,500 Hawaii-based troops in the regions, with more scheduled to arrive there early next year.

About 1,000 Kaneohe-based Marines and sailors of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment -- known as "America's Battalion" -- arrived in Afghanistan earlier this week, said Marine Corps officials.

Star-Bulletin reporters Gregg K. Kakesako and Rod Antone and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

25th Infantry Division
1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment


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