THE WAR IN IRAQ
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
A funeral for Hawaii National Guardsman Sgt. Deyson Cariaga, killed in Iraq this month, was held last night in the Mission Memorial Auditorium. Among the mourners were friends and members of his unit back from Iraq, including Melissa Majewski, left, Spc. Justen Laupola, Sgt. Faateleupu Ifouo and Sgt. Justin Lui.
Slain isle guardsman
was ‘true kid at heart’
Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga was remembered for his smile, his heroism and his kind heart at a memorial service last night for the 2002 Roosevelt High School graduate.
"He was a true kid at heart," Cariaga's uncle Clayton Akatsuka told the crowd of about 400 at Mission Memorial Auditorium. "He had a genuine contagious laughter and a million-dollar smile that was a window into the beautiful person he was inside."
The hour-long service was attended by Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and other local leaders. Also in attendance were many former Roosevelt classmates and police officers. Cariaga's mother and stepfather work for the Honolulu Police Department.
"Even if we were down, he could always make us smile," Justen Laupola, who served with Cariaga in the 29th Brigade Combat Team's 229th Military Intelligence Company, said after the service. Cariaga was the first isle National Guardsman killed in Iraq.
He was "a real local boy who loved surfing and always wore a smile," Laupola said.
Cariaga's friend Tiffany Roloos said, "He always had a way of letting people know things would be all right."
Cariaga's unit was deployed earlier this year and scheduled to return in February. He was a ground surveillance systems operator. He was killed July 8 in Balad when a homemade bomb was detonated near his Humvee, just 20 days shy of his 21st birthday.
"He was not a victim of war ... he was a hero," Brig. Gen. Vern Miyagi said in a eulogy.
Maj. Suzanne Vares-Lum noted, "He died doing a job he loved: gathering information to save the lives of others."
Sgt. Justin Lui, who trained with him since the first day Cariaga joined the service, recalled their annual training in Kahuku.
"We would talk about the future, relationships and school," he said after the memorial.
Lui said Cariaga was considering becoming a firefighter.
"He was a very motivated and driven soldier ... always thinking ahead," said Joni Kaoiwi, the wife of Maj. Moses Kaoiwi, who was in charge of Cariaga's unit.
Akatsuka said when Cariaga won his first judo trophy, it sparked his competitive spirit and taught him about hard work and perseverance.
During Cariaga's career in JROTC, he garnered honors such as Outstanding Cadet of the Year in 1999 and Outstanding Ranger of the Year in 2000.
Cariaga is survived by brother Lance, father Rodney, mother Theresa Inouye, stepfather Jerry Inouye and grandparents Roland and Haruko Akatsuka and Margaret Boydston.
He will posthumously receive the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.