Sgt. Richard Correa, shown here with his fiancee, Corey Dell, was killed on Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The squad leader was scheduled to return in October or November. CLICK FOR LARGE
GI 'so proud' to be American
Sgt. Richard Correa gained citizenship in hopes of joining the elite Delta Force
Sgt. Richard V. Correa recently fulfilled his dream of gaining U.S. citizenship, but that was just a steppingstone to his ultimate goal of becoming a member of the Army's elite Delta Force.
Correa, a Filipino immigrant who came to Honolulu in the 1990s, became an Army Ranger but died before he could attain his Delta Force goal. A roadside bomb killed the 25-year-old soldier Tuesday while he was on foot patrol in Ilbu Falris, Iraq.
"He was happy. He was so proud" after he gained his citizenship in November, said his cousin Mae Correa Acosta Myhre of Honolulu. Myhre grew up with Correa in the Philippines and considered him her brother. She said becoming a citizen was a prerequisite for Delta Force.
Also in Correa's future was a wedding to Corey Dell of Florida. The couple planned to wed in December after he returned from Iraq.
"I was heartbroken," Dell said about hearing the news of her fiancé's death. "I didn't want to believe it because that was my family. We were going to get married. We were supposed to grow old together."
Correa loved to surf and "everything about Hawaii," Dell recalled yesterday in a telephone interview. They met four years ago while he was stationed in Florida, she said. Dell said he served as a mechanic in the Air Force for four years before leaving to join the Army in 2004.
"He just had a different calling. It was to be an Army Ranger," Dell said from her Florida home. "He had hopes of doing Delta Force, special operations."
Dell said Correa liked the Army's "camaraderie, the brotherhood and how everyone got along."
Correa was serving his third tour overseas, the first with the Air Force and two with the Army in Iraq. After coming to Hawaii, Correa stayed with his cousin before he joined the Air Force.
"He want(ed) Honolulu to be the place to stay when he retires," said Myhre. "He loved Hawaii. He was dreaming of buying a house at North Shore."
Correa deployed last August, expecting to return in August, but had his tour extended to October or November.
"He always had a positive outlook on everything, even in Iraq when things are bad," Dell said. But when he learned about his extension, she said he told her, " 'I just want to come home to you. I miss you.' "
Still, Myhre said, he always loved the military.
"He's that person who wants action all the time. He wants to have that honor, like a hero," she said.
Although crushed by Correa's death, she found comfort knowing that her cousin died chasing his dream.
"He died happy," she said. "He's in love with the military -- that's what he wants. He wants to serve his country. ... He served his mission in life."
Correa completed the Army Ranger course, the Combat Life Saver Course and Airborne School, according to an Army news release. He was a squad leader in the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
In addition to his cousin and fiancée, he is survived by his parents in the Philippines, several sisters and a brother. Correa will be laid to rest in his hometown of Lingayen, Pangasinan, in the Philippines.