Saturday, July 23, 2005

A private committal service was held yesterday at Punchbowl for Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga, the first Hawaii National Guardsman killed in Iraq. Cariaga was killed July 8 when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee. After an inurnment ceremony at Punchbowl, family friends Jody Takemoto, left, and Krystle Kaneshiro embraced.

A home-grown hero
is laid to rest

Hundreds honor the guardsman who
"always had a smile, ear to ear"

» Marines 'didn't give up'

Hawaii National Guard Brig. Gen. Vern Miyagi bowed as he handed the ceremonially folded three-corner flag to Sgt. Deyson Ken Cariaga's mother and spoke softly to her during an inurnment ceremony yesterday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Miyagi lifted the lid of a heavy wooden three-cornered box and formally presented it to Theresa Inouye, the 20-year-old soldier's mother, so that she could tuck the flag inside.

Inouye shook her head and hugged the flag hard to her chest as if grabbing hold of her son for the last time.

Cariaga, known as "Dice," is the first Hawaii National Guardsman killed in Iraq. He was a human intelligence officer in the 29th Brigade doing ground surveillance in Balad. On July 8 a homemade bomb exploded near his Humvee, instantly killing him just 20 days shy of his 21st birthday.

At yesterday's ceremony, Cariaga was awarded the Bronze Star for giving "the ultimate sacrifice" to his country and the Purple Heart for the wounds he received during combat. The medals were also presented to his mother.

"He really reflected the aloha spirit and an attitude of 'Just do the job and don't complain,'" said Brig. General Suzanne Vares-Lum, who served as a senior officer over Cariaga and attended the ceremony dressed in fatigues.

Vares-Lum was back for a brief visit when she received news of Cariaga's death.

Deyson Ken Cariaga's grandfather Roland Akatsuka, left, stepfather Jerry Inouye, mother Theresa Inouye and brother Lance Cariaga watched yesterday as the guardsman's remains were interred.

"He always had a smile, ear to ear, despite the fact that he faced danger on a day-to-day basis," she said.

In prayers the Rev. Creighton Arita of New Hope Christian Fellowship said, "We offer Deyson back into your arms, Lord."

Arita spoke before the quiet crowd of about 250 mourners that included men and women in uniform from all branches of the military, family, friends and students from Cariaga's school days at Roosevelt High School. Many held American flags. Scores of Honolulu police officers also attended in honor of Cariaga's mother and stepfather, Jerry Inouye, who work for the department.

Guardsman Alfonse Diaz looked hollow-eyed as the cracking report of a 21-gun salute echoed.

Diaz knew Cariaga when they were at Roosevelt in the JROTC program. Cariaga was named Outstanding Cadet of the Year in 1999 and Outstanding Ranger of the Year in 2000.

Diaz acknowledged that knowing someone killed in the war made it very real to him, but he would not sway from service.

"I was a rookie and he was a senior in ROTC when we met," said Diaz, absently waving a flag on a small wooden stick. "He was an exceptional leader."

Standing behind Diaz was his mother, Liz, who wiped tears from her face.

"When my son found out that his friend had died, he came to my work crying. They were in the same battalion. If my son had graduated the previous year, he would have been over there with him. I'm crying so hard. I'm so worried."

In addition to his mother, brother Lance and stepfather, Cariaga is survived by his father, Rodney, and his grandparents Roland and Haruko Akatsuka and Margaret Boydston.

Lt. Col. Norm Cooling presented the Purple Heart, and later the U.S. flag, to Leo "Rusty" Kirven, father of Cpl. Nicholas C. Kirven, at a ceremony yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

Marines ‘didn’t give up
and didn’t let us give up’

During a three-hour firefight with insurgents in Afghanistan, two Kaneohe-based Marines faced machine gun fire and grenades from enemy fighters hidden in a cave.

Even after Lance Cpl. Nicholas "Nick" Cain Kirven and Cpl. Richard "Ricky" Phillip Schoener were hit, they kept returning fire and yelled to warn their comrades of the danger, according to narratives read aloud during the presentation yesterday of posthumous Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars to the men's families.

"Until our mission on May 8, I never totally understood the saying, 'It's all about the Marines to your left and to your right,'" said 1st Lt. Sam Monte, platoon commander of Kirven, Schoener and 28 other Marines, who survived the battle.

"They didn't give up, and they didn't let any of us give up," Monte said at the memorial service for Kirven, 21, of Richmond, Va., and Schoener, 22, of Hayes, La. - the first Kaneohe-based Marines to lose their lives in Afghanistan fighting.

Twenty-three insurgents were killed in the five-hour battle in Alisang in an opium-producing area 60 miles east of the capital, Kabul.

Speaking at the service yesterday afternoon between two hangars at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Lt. Col. Norman Cooling said the reason Marines are known as "our nation's most tenacious and capable fighting force ... lies in our dedication to one another," such as that shown by Schoener and Kirven.

The two were infantry riflemen assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, attached to Combined Joint Task Force-76 in Afghanistan. The 900-member battalion deployed to Afghanistan on Nov. 11 and returned in June.

"They were in my best squad," Monte said after the service. "They were like the main effort for every mission that had a punch to it."

Schoener planned to attend college before becoming a Marine until the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks convinced him to postpone school, said his mother, Bonnie Breaux.

Schoener always said that if anybody had to take a shot to save others, he wanted it to be him, Breaux said. And when that happened, she said, through tears, "he hollered out to them and they were there.

"I know they did everything humanly possible to try and save my son. He trusted them. He loved them like his family."

Kirven "was doing what he wanted to do, and he believed in what he was doing with all of his heart," his mother, Elizabeth Belle, said yesterday.

"He's not here - that's our biggest regret," said his stepfather, Mike Belle, "but he died with purpose. He died with honor."

Kirven's sister, Mary-Pride Kirven, said: "When he (Nicholas Kirven) got out of Paris Island (Marine training), we looked at him, and we knew that's exactly what he needed to do. We just knew.

"That was his calling in life."

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