Beate Medina, widow of Staff Sgt. Oscar Medina, kissed the U.S. flag presented to her yesterday at his funeral at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. With her was Vicki Olson, wife of Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, 25th Infantry Division commander.

‘A good guy,
a loyal friend’

Iraq casualty Staff
Sgt. Oscar Medina
is interred at Punchbowl

Four months ago, Staff Sgt. Oscar Medina took one of his long midnight motorcycle rides through Waikiki on his Kawasaki Ninja with a few close friends.

Yesterday, that shiny yellow motorcycle stood riderless as Medina, 32, became the first 25th Infantry Division casualty in Iraq to be interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Medina and Spc. Ramon Candelario Ojeda, 22, were killed May 1 when Iraqi insurgents attacked their Army convoy in Al Amarah in southeastern Iraq.

Both were soldiers of the Tropic Lightning's 84th Engineer Battalion. Ojeda was a mechanic and Medina a maintenance specialist in the 84th Battalion's Alpha Company.

Ojeda received a full military burial Tuesday in a donated plot at Southern California's Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.

Medina received similar honors at a Punchbowl funeral attended by about 100 family and friends, including R.J. "Cowboy" Dieken, who met Medina about two years ago. They rode together every weekend until Medina shipped out for Iraq in late January. "I was his shotgun," said Dieken.

"We would meet in Waikiki just about every weekend," Dieken said. "We would cruise through Waikiki watching the strange people until 2 in the morning. Then we would stop at Zippy's and talk for hours.

Medina poses with stray dogs he adopted in Iraq in the last photo he e-mailed to his wife.

"He was definitely a character. He could fill dead space and dead air with anything and keep you smiling. He was friendly and really generous -- a good guy and a loyal friend."

Dieken said at times he would tease Medina because his wife, Beate, rode a motorcycle that was twice as powerful as his.

At yesterday's hour-long service, Sgt. Ron Nekula said the 12-year Army veteran was like a brother.

"Although Oscar seemed hard and never showed any emotion," Nekula said, "he had a soft heart that touched many lives. He was the most unselfish and giving person I know."

Nekula said he talked with Medina about a week before he was killed, and the former Chicago native said Iraq was "hot and the conditions were bad, but he still loved the Army and his country."

As the Army honor guard folding the American flag, Beate Medina wept silently. Several times she mouthed "I love you."

Following a 21-rifle salute and taps, Brig. Gen. Robert Davis, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Division, presented the folded flag to Beate Medina.

As Davis presented a second folded American flag to Francia Lopez, Medina's mother, Beate Medina hugged hers, comforted at times by Vicki Olson, wife of Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commanding general of the 25th Division. Standing at attention next to Lopez in his blue Air ROTC uniform was Medina's brother, Michael Lopez.

Medina placed some of her husband's ashes in Court 6 -- one of the 500 niches in Punchbowl's newest columbarium, which was opened for internments in late March.

Francia Lopez, mother of Staff Sgt. Oscar Medina, stared at the flag that was later presented to her at yesterday's service.

The white marble face plate of Medina's niche bore the inscription "Love is eternal." Maile, kukui nut and pikake leis that adorned Beate's Medina's favorite picture of her husband with two stray dogs he adopted in Iraq was laid at the foot of the niche.

Ramon Ojeda: He received a full military burial Tuesday in Southern California

Some of Medina's ashes also will be buried in Florida near the grave site of his grandmother, who raised him.

At yesterday's service, Medina was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals.

Ojeda's funeral was Tuesday in Ramona, Calif., where he spent his childhood.

The North County Times newspaper said Pastor F. Elsen told the packed chapel, "You know the person when you know the friends, and Ramon had many friends."

His widow, Lesliee Ojeda, whom he met in the Army, served in the same battalion but miles apart in Iraq, and they had not seen each other since they were deployed in January. She was in Iraq when her husband was killed just 15 miles away.

According to the paper, at the service, Lesliee Ojeda carried their 14-month-old son, Angel, to the front of the chapel and thanked everyone for supporting the family and told them that her husband is in a better place.

"I know where he's at," she said. "He always told me, no matter where he is at, he will always be taking care of us."

Joaquin Ojeda described his son as a devoted father.

"He used to bathe (Angel), change him, take showers with him. He was like a mother," he said. "He'd go to sleep with him in his arms. I would tell him, 'Mijo (son), I never changed a diaper in my life.' And he would say, 'Well, you didn't but I will.'"


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