Deyson Cariaga: Described as a loving "local boy"

Tributes pour in
for slain soldier

Sgt. Deyson Cariaga is
the first Hawaii National
Guardsman to be killed in Iraq

A good soldier and friend, a local boy who missed surfing and just wanted to come home, a young man who loved his family and life.

That's the portrait that emerges of Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga, a 2002 Roosevelt High School graduate who is the first Hawaii National Guardsman to die in Iraq.

Friends posted tributes on Cariaga's personal Web page yesterday, politicians expressed their condolences to his family and fellow soldiers remembered a man who is now being called a hero.

"We know that Deyson touched many lives and was contributing to an important mission," Cariaga's family said in a statement.

"Deyson was a good soldier and a wonderful son and brother. We are very grateful to have been blessed by the time we had with him. We are very proud of him and of his service to his country."

Cariaga, a member of the 29th Brigade Combat Team's 229th Military Intelligence Company, was killed in Balad on Friday when a homemade bomb was detonated near his Humvee.

He was 20, just eight days shy of his birthday.

On Cariaga's Web site yesterday, tributes poured in as news of the soldier's death reached high school friends and National Guard buddies.

"Deyson, Deyson ... It couldn't be you," wrote a friend whose screen name is "you saw meee." "You're supposed to come home next month and we were supposed to hang out and you were going to teach me how to surf ... and we planned to bake cookies then chase your doggies around the house."

In a Web log, started in September 2004, Cariaga rambled about what he was going through in Iraq -- appearing homesick and frustrated at times, happy at others.

On Mother's Day, he told readers to "make sure you tell all your mothers out there Happy Mother's Day! If I could get to a phone right now, I would be telling my mom."

On April 20, in an entry titled, "OK, I'm tired," Cariaga wrote: "I think I can officially say that I am tired of playing Army here in Iraq. It was fun and exciting at first, but now it's boring and lonely."

Two months earlier, he had written about needing "to see the ocean again."

"I need to get home," he wrote on Feb. 11. "I need to see all my friends and family again."

Cariaga started his last entry, dated May 28, with, "What have I gotten myself into?"

"I've learned a lot though from joining," he continued. "That's one thanks I can give. I need to look forward. I need to move forward with eyes open."

According to a National Guard statement, Cariaga was a member of a "tactical human intelligence team." On the day he died, he was driving a Humvee to Logistical Support Area Anaconda, where his unit has been stationed since early March.

Three passengers in the Humvee were Air Force personnel and not members of the 29th Brigade Combat Team. They were not injured.

Friends said Cariaga was working as a part of Task Force 100-442 on an operation called "Cobra Strike," which in the past had uncovered caches of weapons in the Balad area. The task force involves members of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry -- one of three combat brigades assigned to the 29th brigade.

A memorial service for Cariaga will be held Tuesday in Iraq.

And Friday, before Cariaga's body was shipped home, "his buddies ... got a chance to say goodbye," said Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, head of the nearly 6,000-member Hawaii Army and Air National Guard.

Cariaga was single. He is survived by his mother, Theresa Inouye, and brother, Lance Cariaga. Cariaga's mother works for the Honolulu Police Department, while his stepfather is a police officer.

"The whole police family is very sad," said Frank Fujii, Honolulu Police Department spokesman. Funeral services are pending.

"We all dreaded this day," said Brig. Gen. Vern Miyagi, commander of the Hawaii Army National Guard, before a ceremony for Hawaii's citizen soldiers yesterday. Gov. Linda Lingle, speaking to reporters after the ceremony, called Cariaga "an American hero fighting for his country."

During his junior year at Roosevelt, Cariaga was a member of the school's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. In his senior year book dedication, he wrote: "I would like to say goodbye Roosevelt. Thanks 4 everything. Thanks to all of those who helped me through the years: my grandparents, my mother, Uncle, and my coach for always keeping me on task and not letting me quit.

"And for all my friends for always being there and putting up with my stuff."

Star-Bulletin reporters Helen Altonn and Diana Leone contributed to this report.


Paying tribute

Tributes to Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga came in from around the state yesterday, from lawmakers and Hawaii National Guard officials, family members and friends.

» "Deyson, where do I even begin?" wrote a friend, who identified herself as Krystle, on Cariaga's Web site. "Thank you for being a part of my life. Knowing you since we were 11 has really been a blessing. ... I really can't believe that God decided to take you from us so soon. I guess you did your time on this Earth and impacted as many lives as he had planned. ... I'll miss you and will never ever forget you. Continue to watch over us, OK?"

» Capt. Michael Desmond, Cariaga's commander, described him as "a superb soldier. He always excelled in every mission that was asked of him."

» Cariaga's team leader, Spc. Eric Shimodoi, said he was "very intelligent -- the epitome of what makes a good soldier."

» Pfc. Sheldon Fujiawara, who attended Roosevelt High School with Cariaga and enlisted with him three years ago, added: "I don't have any siblings. He was like my brother. We were always at each other's houses. I really miss Dice; this leaves a big void in the team. We're all really close."

» From Tokyo, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, in a written statement, said Cariaga's death "is felt by all members of the City and County ohana. On their behalf, I extend my heartfelt aloha and condolences to his family and his comrades. His passing is a reminder that thousands of Americans remain in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray for their safe return."

» "You will always be loved by all of us," wrote "Jas" on Cariaga's Web site. "From kindergarten to now, I've seen you grow so much. I know you're still there watching over us and you will never be forgotten."

» Also on the site, a friend who identified himself as Ken wrote: "Man, I'm still reeling from it all right now. I can't believe you're gone. All I can hope for is that you're happier now. Thanks for those memories in summer school, and I hope that you're in a much better place."

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com