Soldier’s friends

A high school buddy says the
guardsman could not wait to
surf back home in August

Friends of Sgt. Deyson Ken "Dice" Cariaga, the first Hawaii National Guardsman killed in Iraq, are having a hard time accepting the 20-year-old's death last week.

"I'm still in denial. It hasn't sunk into me yet," said Krystle Kaneshiro, of Salt Lake, who last spoke to Cariaga a day before he died.

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

He would have turned 21 on July 28, and was due to return to Oahu next month.

Friends continued to post messages on Cariaga's personal Web page yesterday.

Kaneshiro said she had known Cariaga for about 10 years, after meeting at a summer program at the Nuuanu YMCA and attending Kawananakoa Middle School and Roosevelt High School.

"He was my first boyfriend and I was his first girlfriend," she said. "We were only 12 years old. It was really innocent. We didn't hold hands or anything," said Kaneshiro.

They outgrew their short relationship, spent a period of time apart and later became best friends.

"He is a totally amazing person. He was outgoing. He finds the best in the people no matter who they are," she said. "It's like I (can) still hear him laughing. ... We had fun talking to each other."

Kaneshiro said Cariaga was looking forward to coming home. "He was very homesick," she said, and he was looking forward to surfing.

"As long as there were waves, he was always there. In fact, he was planning on buying two new boards when he got back from Iraq," she said.

"Before he left for Iraq, I had him promise me to come back safely. He said, 'When I come back, you and I are going to hang out.' I was looking forward to that," she said.

Kaneshiro said she wished she could have told Cariaga face to face how proud she was of him. "I didn't have that chance," she said.

"If Deyson could say something right now, he would say, 'Stop crying about me' and move on with my life. I know he wouldn't want anybody to worry about him, and to celebrate life," Kaneshiro said.

Lauren Usami, a 2005 graduate of Roosevelt High School, described Cariaga as a patient, easygoing person who watched over her like a younger sister.

Cariaga was going to take her to beaches on the south side of Oahu to teach her to surf.

"He was always there if you needed anything," said Usami, who met Cariaga four years ago through her older brother, Shawn, and wrote e-mail messages to Cariaga every other week.

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