Fallen Warriors

Grover Nagaji was born on July 10, 1920. After serving with the Varsity Victory Volunteers where he distinguished himself as a “darn good” carpenter, Nagaji entered military service on March 25, 1943. In June 1944, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was just docking in Italy and entering the European theatre. The famed 100th Infantry Battalion, which had earned the nickname of “The Purple Heart Battalion” for its extraordinary battle achievements, was attached as a battalion to the 442nd. After completing basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Nagaji was assigned to the 442nd, as a replacement in the 100th Battalion.

On June 26, 1944, the 442nd entered its first battle at Suvereto in central Italy. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 442nd encountered stiff enemy opposition that day and the attack was stalled. The battle-hardened 100th Battalion was ordered to carry on the attack. It did so with a brilliant maneuver as it slipped between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, and smashed a surprised enemy. It was during this action that S.Sgt Grover Nagaji was killed in action as his squad attacked a German tank, and he was mortally wounded by the tank’s explosion. For their efforts that day, the 100th Infantry Battalion was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation.

Sgt. Howard Urabe was born on March 16, 1923 in Kapaa, Kauai. Urabe enlisted on March 24, 1943, and after completing basic training at Camp Shelby, was assigned to the 442nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company G. On July 4, 1944, a week after the battle at Suvereto that had taken the life of S.Sgt. Nagaji, the 442nd engaged the enemy in a fierce battle that became known as “Hill 140.” The battle raged for four days as the 442nd attacked an area that had been fortified by a German labor construction company to withstand bombardment.

On that July 4th, Sgt. Urabe was cited for gallantry in action, According to his citation: “… Sgt. Urabe crawled 25 yards through sparse undergrowth to reach a position in front of an enemy machine gun. Timing his movements … Sgt. Urabe suddenly stood up and fired a rifle grenade into the nest, killing the machine gunner and destroying the gun. When the other two members of the gun crew started to run, Sgt. Urabe killed both of them with his M-1 rifle. When another machine gun fired upon him, Sgt. Urabe fired another grenade and knocked out the second gun …” Urabe was killed by a sniper as he was preparing for another assault. His bravery on Hill 140 earned him a Silver Star, posthumously.

Jenhatsu Chinen was born on February 22, 1922 in Helemano. After serving with the Varsity Victory Volunteers, Chinen entered military service in March 1943 and was assigned to the 442nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company E. The battle for Hill 140 continued, as both sides engaged in a long and furious battle to control access to the seaport of Leghorn, the third largest port in Italy. The immediate objective of Sgt. Chinen and Company E of the 2nd Battalion was to reach the villages of Casellina and Rosignano.

The attack on July 5th resulted in heavy casualties, including Sgt. Chinen. Eyewitness accounts state that he most likely was felled by artillery fire. Sgt. Chinen enjoyed music and played the guitar for his buddies during rest periods. He carried that guitar with him from UH to Schofield Barracks, to Camp Shelby and then overseas to Italy. He’s probably strumming some chords for us today. 

Pvt. Akio Nishikawa was born on October 15, 1922 in Paia, Maui. Pvt. Nishikawa entered military service on March 21, 1943, and after completing basic training was assigned as a medic to Company E of the 2nd Battalion of the 442nd. On July 4th, during the battle for Hill 140, Pvt. Nishikawa was cited for heroic achievements in going to the aid of the wounded despite artillery fire. For his actions he was awarded a Bronze Star. Four days later, on July 8th, the 442nd accomplished its mission of taking the heavily fortified Hill 140. The regiment immediately pressed onwards through small rural villages and clusters of farm dwellings.

It was during this march that Pvt. Akio Nishikawa earned a Silver Star. Sgt. Don Masuda recalls that despite the shelling, Nishikawa wanted to help a wounded comrade. His citation reads in part: “… Nishikawa ran for a distance of 100 yards through concentrated 88 mm artillery and mortar shelling to render first aid. Although advised by others in the platoon to wait until the enemy ceased shelling he paid no heed to their warnings and proceeded to rescue the man with the words, ‘Gotta go!’” Shrapnel mortally wounded Pvt. Nishikawa during this action. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star.

Hiroichi Tomita was born on May 2, 1943. Tomichi entered military service on March 24, 1943. After training at Camp Shelby, Tomita was assigned to Company F of the 2nd Battalion of the 442. On July 12, 1944, the 2nd Battalion was moving forward and Company F was experiencing enemy fire. Pfc. Tomita was a runner for his platoon. His task was to relay messages between the front and the rear command post.

Pfc. Tomita and other Company F riflemen sought shelter in a pink two-story farmhouse that had been a landmark during the battle at Hill 140. Two Company F riflemen, Sgt. Kiyoshi Iguchi and Pfc. Hiroichi Tomita, were instantly killed. Tomita came from a family of nine children. He had a brother in the 442nd- T/4 Richard T. Tomita, Battery A, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.

Daniel Betsui was born on September 5, 1922 in Hanapepe, Kauai. Betsui was inducted into the Army of March 11, 1943, and after training at Camp Shelby, was assigned to the 232nd Combat Engineer Company of the 442nd Regiment.

On August 2, during a training session, an accident of horrible proportions occurred. The soldiers from the 109th Engineering Battalion, 34th Division, assisted by Sgt. Betsui and other 232nd engineers, were demonstrating characteristics of German mines to the 3rd Battalion of the 442nd. The demonstration ended and the mines were stored back on a truck. Suddenly a tremendous explosion rocked the truck as nearly a ton of explosives ignited. No one is sure what caused the explosion – one theory is that the detonators were loaded with the mines and one of the igniting devices of the detonators had not been un-cocked. Ten men were killed instantly, and another died later of injuries from the blast. Sgt. Betsui was amongst those killed instantly.

Robert Shigeru Murata was born on October 8, 1922 in Honolulu. Murata was inducted into service on March 15, 1943. On the night of October 26th, less than 3 days off the line, the 442nd was called up to rescue a battalion of the 36th Texas Regiment that had been surrounded by German units – a battle that has become known as “The Rescue of the Lost Battalion.”

We cannot begin to capture in these few moments the courage and sacrifice of the 442nd soldiers as they fought inch by inch up steep terrain to reach the Texas Battalion. In all, 800 were wounded or killed to rescue the 211 Texans. K Company had started with 186 infantrymen; only 17 walked out. I Company starting with 185 men; only 8 walked out. Amidst all of the courage and carnage, Sgt. Robert Murata lost his life in hand-to-hand combat. The Rescue of the Lost Battalion is designated by the US Army as one of the top 10 battles in its 230-year history.

Major John “Jack” Alexander Johnson Jr. was born June 9, 1913. Jack joined the Hawaii National Guard in 1939 and was promoted to first lieutenant in the 299th Infantry. When not working on the plantation, he was training his men. As a supervisor at a sugar plantation, which had been deemed an essential war industry by the government, he could easily have requested an exemption when the war broke out. But he would join the Army when called up.

Major Jack A. Johnson died in the battle for Monte Cassino on January 25, 1944. Johnson, who had replaced the injured Major James Lovell as the 100th Infantry Battalion’s executive officer in early January, was accompanying the unit’s new commanding officer, Major George Dewey, on a reconnaissance mission when both men were wounded in a German minefield. Because they lay in a field exposed to enemy fire, battalion headquarters sent only two litter bearers and their single stretcher for the wounded officers. The soldiers had been ordered to “save Jack first,” but in the confusion of battle, they returned with Major Dewey, who was near death.

Memories of Tom

Tom and I were best friends in High School. We both went to New Rochelle High School in New York. Our fathers were both stationed at a little army base called Fort Slocum. Tom and I took life saving together and were life guards at the two base beaches. In our spare time we spent hours snorkel diving in the cold Long Island sound. Tom was a friend to everyone he met. I cherish the time that I spent with Tom and his family. I will always be grateful for his friendship and for his sacrifice to his country. You will always be in my thoughts Tom.
- Keith Soliday

I knew you as a friend from Fort Slocum. I always thought of you as such a gentle soul. I was so sorry to hear of your passing many years ago. I hope you know how much we appreciate the sacrifice that you made in behalf of the USA and how proud I am to have known you.
- Judi Forquer Runyon

Tom was my squad leader in ROTC Summer Camp, Ft. Lewis Washington in 1964. It was obvious he would be an outstanding officer. He knew everything, and was a great help to those like myself who were struggling. No matter what he had to do he always had time to help someone else. We became fast buddies and shared several adventures such as a frantic climb up Mt. Rainier one Sunday morning. Leaving camp at 3:30 AM and returning after midnight. We also had some high times on field exercises and the E&E course avoiding capture and laughing at the same time. We stayed in touch after that summer and were looking forward to serving together if we could arrange it. I didn’t get to Nam until Aug. 1966 and was crushed to learn he was KIA before I even arrived. Tom was a role model for us all and I will never understand why so many better officers than I died.
- Andrew Lattu

Tom was a distinguished cadet in our University of Hawaii ROTC Brigade. He was dedicated to the Army, a great buddy, and a true Hawaiian. We all knew his enthusiasm would make him a successful Infantry leader. Losing him so early after his commissioning, served as a personal motivator to all of his ROTC classmates. We miss him terribly. God bless his soul.
- Stan Dahlin

In hopes that this reaches family, friends and those that served with Lt Rodriguez. I know he was a well respected leader of his platoon and a fine soldier who died in an assault on an enemy force in Northern Vietnam. We lost two others in that assault and all are missed. To me, the picture reflects the seriousness of our circumstances, even at the earliest part of our involvement. We were young, we were tired, and we were responsible. Now we will miss those that didn’t come home.
– SGT Jonathan D. Quick, A Co. 1/501

Frank Rodriguez was nicknamed “Dirty Frank” because he was the cleanest trooper we ever knew. He didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, and he was one of the most beloved platoon leaders in C/1/501. When he was killed I cried.
– George Barton, XO, A Co, 1/501

Frank and I were ROTC cadets at the University of Hawaii; he was the All-American boy who was respected by all who knew him. He was an unselfish leader who was dedicated to the principles of Duty, Honor, Country. Frank was one of the best and brightest. I still mourn his loss after all these years.
– George Sheridan, ROTC Classmate

Frank and I were in the same homeroom at Radford High School in Honolulu Hawaii. During the Christmas Holiday in 1962 six of us, including Frank, walked around the island of Oahu. We slept on the beach, and the young women from the class would drive up to where we were, park their cars on the beach, and tune the radios to the same station so that we could dance, and later go for a swim. We all loved Frank, and he had so much to live for.
– George Blank, High School Classmate

Brian was a ‘first name guy’, he always wanted to know the person . . . it did not matter where they came from, but always liked to know people. He was a people person all the way back since the 2nd grade, and that is how he thought and always treated others too with care and compassion.
- Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Kong Takeshita, Sister of Brian

Brian was a Distinguished Military Student (DMS) ROTC classmate of mine. We both attended IOBC 7-70 at Fort Benning in September, 1969. He and I did not hang together but we met occasionally to share care package foods from home. The last time I talked to him was in late November, 1969. I went to his room in Olsen Hall. He was with his guitar, which I didn’t know he played. We talked about home, the war, and post Army plans. I asked him why he chose Infantry. Brian replied that there was a war going on and that people’s lives were at stake. He believed only the best officers should be there to lead and command troops. It was that important. I have told my two daughters of this young man . . . of his dedication and conviction . . . and of his great loss.
- Mike Muraoka, ROTC classmate

You left an indelible impression upon me, Brian. I still think of you frequently.
- Your friend, Brad, University of Hawaii at Manoa 1969

Thanks for saving my life and not letting me go back to the jungle when I was so close to coming home. I’ll always remember your “Thumbs up” on your last mission. Rest Well.
- Your Radioman, Charles “Pops” Jordan, 2/12 Cav

And God said, “Whom shall I send. And who will go for us?” and I said. “here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6:8. I will never forget you.
- Your Pointman and friend, Robert Ramirez, 2/12 Cav

Lt. Kong was my first platoon leader when I arrived in Vietnam. I found him to be a caring and professional soldier. He will surely be missed.
- Dennis Hudecki, served under him in the 1st Cav

I met him stateside at Ft. Benning. I ran into him again in the replacement company of the 1st CAV. I still remember the day he died. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of him.
- James Kerschner, fellow Soldier in 1st Cav

1LT Brian Kong volunteered for service and to go to Vietnam. Brian’s service to country is to be commended.

While many Americans fled to other countries to avoid the draft, Brian said “Other guys are there and if I don’t go. . .someone else will . . why should I run and hide and shirk responsibility . . .” These are the words of a true patriot.
Message from Hawai’i Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink, April 26, 2001, in remembrance 30 years ago

Lieutenant Kong is a true American hero. He was a conscientious student and outstanding ROTC cadet who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Although nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved one, I hope you will take comfort in knowing that he will never be forgotten. Generations of ROTC cadets have learned and will continue to learn about his honor, bravery, and patriotism.
Message from Hawai’i Senator Daniel K. Inouye, April 26, 2001, in remembrance 30 years ago

Memories of Nainoa
A Soldier’s Tribute and Eulogy
1LT Raymond O`Donnell

1LT. Nainoa K. Hoe, a husband, son and brother loyal and selfless as a friend and soldier and unmatched as a leader. He owned the room when he walked in. Always steady as a rock he was the most dependable person I knew. He never did anything halfway.

Nainoa was a professional soldier, an Infantry Platoon Leader, doing his job to the best of his abilities. Even in the fog of war Nainoa never lost his quick wit and sharp sense of humor. Most importantly Nainoa always kept his priorities in order. He was a wonderful husband, son and brother. His love for his Emily, family and Hawaii always came first. That’s what struck me about Nainoa no matter what, he was always able to keep things in perspective and focus on those things most important in life.

Nainoa was born to lead men into combat. He was answering his call. I know he loved what he was doing and nobody did it better. In his 27 years he had with us, he accomplished far more than most men who have had the privilege of living long lives.

Nainoa fulfilled his destiny. He touched so many people in his short existence. He was truly the best and brightest of Hawaii, the Army and our Nation. It is unfortunate that Men like him only rarely appear, however we were blessed to share him in our lives.

Nainoa Keali`ihokuhelelani Hoe chose to arrive at Kapiolani Hospital to the minute of the full moon that hung in the southern sky, Sunday night August 28, 1977. He was a special gift to his mother Adele and his dad Allen. He represented the dreams of their families with monumental tasks to accomplish. His given name, (Nah eno ah), “untouched by kapu” was to help him overcome any obstacle in his pathway, but of course the Hawaiian ka ona, “Nah e noah” The “Name” had its special meaning as well. His Hawaiian name, “Keali`ihokuhelelani” was meant to honor the alii full moon which traveled the heavens that night.

Nainoa grew up in Maunawili Valley and loved every minute of it, he shared it with his buddy Aleco from age 1 ½ , and later his brother Nakoa, and Aleco’s brother Constantine, the 4 of them were a force to be reckoned with their antics and costumes especially at Halloween. His early years were full of fun and activities, including the usual trips to Disneyland, neighbor islands to spend time with his grandma and grandpa on Kauai at Moloa`a beach. One trip seemed to leave more of a lasting impression than others. In 1989 he traveled to Washington DC with his father to visit the sites and museums, he visited the White House, and Washington Monument and one afternoon he and dad walked across the Potomac Bridge to visit Arlington National Cemetery. He stood at the eternal flame of the JFK memorial and then walked over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as he approached those hallowed grounds; he became transfixed by the sight of the tall young soldiers in dress blues performing the solemn march in front of the tomb with such precise movements and timing. Nainoa did not want to leave. He watched the changing of the guards’ ceremony two times before he was satisfied.

Within the next year he was enrolled as a freshman at Kamehameha Schools and immediately found a place in the JROTC program which provided him the challenges and rewards he so enjoyed. His most satisfying accomplishment was being named the Commander of the Nakoa Unit of the program. Ranger challenges, rappelling, long distances marches and runs seem to give him more strength and a greater sense of purpose.

Upon graduation from Kamehameha with the class of 1995, (which celebrates their 10th year reunion this year) he enrolled at the University of Hawaii, College of Business Administration from which he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. During this same time he entered the US Army Reserves at Ft. Shafter, serving with the 9th Regional Support Command and United States Forces Korea as an enlisted man. When asked by his father why he choose to start as an enlisted man as opposed to seeking a Commission, his response was “because you did dad” when I become an officer I want my record to show that I was once an enlisted man and that I had the stuff it takes to do the job.

There were few records or awards which he did not win. Most notable he earned the US Army 9th Regional Support Command, Soldier of the Year award in 2001. He earned the US Army Pacific Command, Reserve Component Soldier of the Year award as well. And he was the runner up in the US Army Reserve Component Soldier of the Year, nationally. His greatest satisfaction was when he was with the men of the 100 BN 442 IN RGMT. He took great pride in being permitted to serve in that most legendary unit and to soak up the mystic and honor of what is like to know its history and the young men from Hawaii who wrote it. Nainoa’s personal motto was of course – “Go For Broke.”

Not only did he succeed at the soldiering skills, he also excelled academically having earned his MBA Degree from the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration under a full scholarship through the “Fish Scholarship for Excellence” a highly sought after MBA scholarship award sponsored by the Shuster Oil & Chemical Co. He received both his MBA and his coveted Gold Bars of a young “shaved tail” in May 2003. He began his service as an Infantry Officer with IOBC Class Charlie 501-03, 5th Platoon and graduated in October 2003. Nainoa then earned his Jump wings as a member of A Co. 08-04 1st Platoon in December 2003. He started Ranger School in January 2004 and graduated on March 11, 2004, with Ranger Class 4-04.

He reported for duty to Ft. Lewis in March of 2004 and was thrilled to be assigned to 3/21 “Gimlets” having grown up hearing all the stories told by his dad, and his army uncles who served in Vietnam with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, which was comprise of the 2/1, the 3/21 and the 4/31 Infantry regiments.

He married his beautiful Emily Mai Vo, on June 24, 2004 in a private ceremony at the “Bayer Estate” with his dad conducting the ceremony at sunset. Such a handsome couple in such a beautiful place with such dreams for the future.

1st LT Darren Glenn had the privilege of serving with and getting to know Nainoa while training for deployment to Iraq and during actual combat missions. As fellow Platoon Leaders in combat the two forged an impenetrable relationship that only they would understand . . . his incredible words about Nainoa – “The first time I heard the name Nainoa Hoe was from a mutual friend, Rob Nash. Rob stated that he had a good friend being assigned to 3/21 Infantry. I immediately asked Rob, “if he was a good dude or not.” Rob responded with something that I will never forget; he told me “Nainoa was the best leader he has ever met.”

Nainoa became the 2nd Platoon Leader while I was the 1st Platoon Leader for Charlie Company 3/21. All Platoon Leaders take great pride in their platoons, Nainoa and myself were no different. We constantly strived and competed with each other to have the best Platoon in the company. The honest fact of the matter was Nainoa’s Platoon always set the standard. No matter the event, Physical Fitness tests, live fires, and even the company picnic 2nd Platoon was the bar that the entire company would be based off of. Even when another platoon had done better overall they were always compared to Nainoa’s Platoon, This was a direct reflection of Nainoa’s personality, and his drive to succeed in anything he or his men attempted.

Nainoa set high expectations for his soldiers and would accept nothing less of them then their best effort. His Platoon took 1st Place in the Company Machine Gun Competition, had the highest physical fitness score in the company, and his men were selected to train the entire Battalion’s Officer Corp in Closed Quarters Marksmanship. While these accomplishments sound very successful, Nainoa was never one to “rest on his laurels.” He knew we would soon be leading men in combat and tough realistic combat focused training was our responsibility.

Nainoa was fiercely competitive, but he never micromanaged his soldiers. He trusted and empowered his NCO’s and allowed his men to succeed and fail on their own merits. Nainoa never accepted credit for his men’s accomplishments, and never deflected the blame for any deficiencies his platoon encountered. Nainoa’s men were the most important thing to him. This was true in both training and combat. Nainoa led from the front in Mosul, no matter the mission, 1LT Hoe would be in the first vehicle leading his men or right up front with the lead element in a dismounted patrol. He never asked his men to do anything he would never do first himself. He was not out seeking glory or spotlighting he was just doing what he knew was right leading from the front.

While our platoons competed Nainoa and I became good friends. Anyone that knew Nainoa couldn’t help but appreciate his quick wit and sense of humor. Whether it was a late night training meeting or a stressful field problem I could always visit my friend and leave with a smile on my face. We would make jokes about almost anything and especially each other, nothing was off-limits and some people may have thought we went overboard. We were both thick skinned and knew how to make each other laugh. This was especially helpful in Mosul. Many nights when I came back to FOB PATRIOT upset with the way the mission went. Nainoa would be waiting for me in the CP with a, “hey how did it go,” and a quick joke that would suddenly make things seem all right. I would laugh and realize hey nobody was killed and yes we may have had a few close calls but things were good. Besides I wasn’t going to let this guy make fun of me. We then would sit in front of the map and talk about the events of the day often for an hour or so. Compare our observations and discuss what we thought the enemy was doing and how we could counter their actions. This was our own form of Intelligence and was just as important to me as it was to Nainoa. We learned from each others observations and in many of theses discussion we both became better Platoon Leaders.

We also watched each other’s backs. Nainoa knew that if he needed to borrow anything he could come to me and I could go to him. Often times we swapped vehicles, equipment, and anything else we needed in order to accomplish the mission. Whenever a company mission was to take place both of us felt most confident when 1st and 2nd Platoon were operating together. The competitiveness that our platoons displayed in training transformed in to a mutual respect. There was never a doubt in my mind that if my platoon was ever in trouble Nainoa and 2nd Platoon would be there to help bail us out.

Other days that were a bit slower the FSO Phil Fassieux, Nainoa, and I would go in the chow hall and just talk to each other. Talk about things we liked in Iraq, things we didn’t like, what we were going to do when we returned home and things we missed the most. Often these conversations turned into an outlet to vent our frustrations. We were our own support channel and kept each others morale up.

One conversation I will never forget took place on Veterans Day. The city erupted in violence and 1st Platoon was going out on a mission. Nainoa stopped me on my way out the gate which was odd. We usually spoke after the missions not before. He said, “hey be careful out there, it’s getting kind of crazy.” I looked at him confused and said, “hey brother don’t worry about me I am good.” Nainoa was worried because that was his nature; he was not only worried about his men but his friends as well. I was wounded later that day and EVACED back to the states. That last simple conversation would be the last time I would ever speak to my friend.

Every Veterans day for the rest of my life I will remember 1st LT Nainoa Hoe. I will ponder the question of where does America get men like Nainoa Hoe, men of honor, courage, who put the welfare of all others above himself. I was once told in a speech from COL Ralph Puckett, “that once America stops being the home of the brave we will no longer be the land of the free.” 1Lt Nainoa Hoe once again proved America is the home of the brave and will always be the land of the free.

I wish I could conclude this tribute by saying Rest in Peace Nainoa, but the truth of the matter is Nainoa is not resting right now. There is no doubt in my mind that 1st LT Hoe is looking down on his men, protecting them, influencing their every decision and just adding that little bit of luck that everyone needs in combat. Nainoa is not the type of warrior that would allow death to prevent him from leading and protecting his men. My friends true tribute and legacy is not anything I could say or put into words here, but the 2nd Platoon “Outlaws” who right now as we speak are in Mosul accomplishing every mission and representing the United States of America, that is the true tribute for a man once described as the “best leader I have ever met.” Nainoa I am going miss you and I promise I will keep an eye on your boys for you.

Jeremy was always competitive by nature. The thing about him though was he wasn’t an A-hole if he lost…hmmm…what’s a better word!?! He wasn’t a sore loser in other words. He didn’t really always compete to necessarily prove he was the best, but to challenge others to become better…better than they thought they could be, and sometimes it was in turn push him to beyond limits he thought he had already reached.

For example, he had therecord of the most sit-ups at one point in time, till CDT Leonani Bowman decided one day she was going to beat him. She didn’t tell him she was working on it, she just did it! Shocked him too…he didn’t even see it coming! I remember one of his boys asking me what his training was like outside of ROTC. What did Jeremy do to run so fast. As far as I knew he ate hamburger helper and played video games if he wasn’t studying!

I informed Jeremy that some of the guys are working real hard to run faster than him…he had this bewildered look on his face when it hits him he said, “No wonder they’ve been getting faster! It pisses me off some mornings because they’re make me run a lot faster than I actually want to!” Then he’d laugh because running to him was easy to maintain. He didn’t really do anything extra.

When it came to him and I, we had a lot in common. Shooting perhaps was something we equally loved to do…so much that rather than actually shoot together, we shot against each other. We had a bet during one of our ROTC M16 ranges…him being trained as a sniper and me being a top shooter for the OIA, it was only natural that everyone wanted to see who was better. Well, it was raining that day. He shot first, and I when I got my score of 28…I knew I was done for. As I walked into the cleaning area…everyone was quiet. He looked at me and asks, “So…what’d you shoot?” I was like, “Doesn’t matter, you won, the rain was throwing me off…blah blah blah, I shot a 28!” Everyone started laughing…because he shot a 27! He was never a sore loser though, if anyone beat him in anything he thought it was awesome. And he never quit…even though I commissioned 5 months before him, he told me he would beat me to making CPT! He sure had a sense of humor.

Jer was a very loving Husband. He was my dearest friend and truest companion. Writing this brings a stream of tears to my eyes that I don’t think will ever completely dry up. I’d like to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and extending your love to myself, our family, and mainly to Jeremy for the ultimate sacrifice he has given to us, and our great country. Many of you who have served with Jer have touched down on what an outstanding leader he was. I definitely agree, with both of us being dual service I have also had the privilege to serve along side him. He not only filled the role of a husband to me, but he was many other things. He was my motivation, a dedicated trainer, and he inspired me to excel in the things that I loved to do, both in the Army and outside of it.

Jer also had a very charming personality to go along with his adorable smile and those 2 big dimples that he often tried to hide. He had an odd sense of humor that was very entertaining, and you could not help but laugh with him when he got started up on something. I had some friends tell me that they thought we were an odd couple. They saw Jer as a professional, serious, detailed, and a straight forward kind of guy. They saw me as just plain goofy. It wasn’t until they got to know him better that they realized he was just as goofy as I was, if not more!

Jer had a love for life, collecting coins, movies, music, shooting, scuba diving, electronics, games, learning and anything you could do outdoors. He loved his family, and he loved his friends, but he had a passion for flying. In my heart, I know Jer has a new pair of solo wings now. I also know he is flying higher than he could have dreamed possible. Honey, I love you, and I always will. Your memory will stay with me always, and I want to thank you for the 4 and 1/2 years of love and support that you have given me. You have made an impact in my life and the lives of many others. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY” – Christine Wolfe, wife of Jeremy

Starting to write something like this is never easy—how do you take a few words and sentences and tell people about a whole life and how amazing a person was. How do you decide what memories to include or not include when they all seem so precious because they are what you have left?

Many people only knew Jeremy as a very dedicated serious person in both his education and work. Those of us who knew him in a more personal way knew a very different person. Don’t get me wrong, Jer was extremely serious and driven but he also had an amazing sense of humor. He was fiercely protective and extremely caring with those close to him. Growing up, Jer and I were like any siblings and had our share of arguments but we did get along the majority of the time.

Even when we were kids, Jer had an “army” mind. I can still walk in the field behind my parent’s house today and find the sheets of black plastic that we used to cover our many fox holes that we had dug in the ground while playing. I also remember us walking through the field and woods with a shovel filling them in after our parents’ realized just how many there were. I am extremely ticklish and one of Jer’s favorite past times was tickling me until I was literally gasping for air—he never did grow out of finding amusement with that.

We grew apart as he moved around for training but I did write him often, and he saved most of those letters—apparently he was sentimental as well. As we got older, Jer became one of my best friends. We talked regularly—often daily. I always knew that no matter what was going on in my life, happy or sad, Jer was there. I could call him at 3 in the morning crying so hard I couldn’t even speak and he would calmly talk me through it.

He always believed in me, even during the times that I had stopped believing in myself. His niece and nephew adored him and Jeremy took great pride in that. He made Christmas and birthdays so fun for them as he always took much time to find just the “right” presents for them. I was always amazed at how well Jeremy handled the kids and how much he participated in their lives whenever he had the opportunity. On one of Jer’s visits home, I was extremely sick and he who had no experience with children immediately offered to go pick up my one and two year old from da ycare—anyone who has ever dealt with a child car seat knows this harder than it sounds. He also ran to the store to get me juice and ginger ale. He handled those kids like a pro and never uttered a word about being worried that I would get him sick. Another time when Devon was five, we visited Jer for a week and Jer managed to teach him how to swim in that short amount of time. It seemed like whatever he set his mind to do, he could accomplish.

Jeremy wasn’t afraid to show or tell you that he loved you. He told me at the end of every conversation we had. If any of you had the opportunity to see him with Christine, you most likely saw it as well. I used to love to watch him look at her because you could tell how much he loved her just by the way that he looked at her.

Jer came home to visit me right before he left for Iraq. I had just graduated from college and he said he brought a present for me. He kept talking about how badly I needed a new printer for my computer and led me to believe that was my gift. Imagine my surprise when he handed me a small jewelry box…inside was a quarter carat diamond heart. You can imagine how much it means to me to have this rather than a printer now.

One of my best memories from that trip was the night we went out on the town together. We had gone to a demolition derby and after it was over came up on a truck pulled to the side of the road. Jer stopped to see if he could help and found out the truck was overheating, he offered to follow them all the way home—which we did. Later when we were out, I remember him standing across from me looking at me with this huge grin on his face….when I am sad, I think of that look and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. I know that I am a much stronger person today because of having Jer in my life. One of the most important things that he taught me was to have dreams and goals because without them, you don’t have much.

Flying helicopters was Jeremy’s dream and he knew the risks but he also believed that accomplishing his dream was worth the risk. I have to admit that I haven’t gone back to Jer’s grave since the day we buried him, I just can’t seem to face it. They say it gets easier with time but if I stop and think about it, the pain still hits me so badly that I can’t breathe. I do know though, that its okay because Jeremy is not there….Jeremy is with Christine as she is doing her drills and shooting her weapons, Jeremy is sitting with Cara on the floor as she plays with her toys, Jeremy is running alongside Devon on the football field laughing because Devon is wearing Jer’s Disturbed t-shirt over his pads, and sometimes I’ll be standing with a group of people and say something that is completely Jeremy and not something I would have ever said, and know that Jeremy is there with me. In our hearts and in our minds, he is very much alive.

- Sharla Utpadel, sister of Jeremy

Mary Jo Brostrom would describe her fun loving and dear son, Jonathan, a typical teenager from a military family who on one occasion got into trouble playing paintball on base. It seems that everyone always had a ‘Jon’ story.

But Army 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom had a depth of character those teachers at Damien Memorial School noticed.

Mike Normand, a Damien teacher, said some students are memorable because they need a lot of help. But Normand said Jonathan Brostrom stood out for far different reasons.He is a solid, hard-working student who had good leadership qualities. “He worked his tail off. … He was a real honest kid,” Normand said.

He further described Brostrom as an outgoing person who had a team-player mentality. “In his life he chose to defend the U.S. He did what he believed was right for his country. That’s the kind of kid he was, do what is right and necessary. He chose to do the right thing,” he added “There’s that few who are just outstanding people when you get them. They’ve already got that sense of honor and responsibility within themselves, and Jon was one of those,” Normand said.

“He took responsibility for himself. If he didn’t turn in his homework, he didn’t bother making up a fanciful excuse for not doing so. ‘He’d just say, ‘I didn’t do it because I was doing other things, and I take responsibility for it,’ ” Normand said.

Brostrom was a lifeguard at Pearl Harbor and played on the Damien golf team. His former golf coach, Jim Weicking, “Jon was a great asset to the team. He was absolutely a fun-loving guy. He was a character.”

Fellow soldiers, meanwhile, say that trait of honor and the physical skills Brostrom possessed made him perfectly cut out for his job as a platoon leader in the mountains of Afghanistan.

“I love the guy to death,” said 1st Lt. Carter Johnston, who became friends with Brostrom when they went through the University of Hawai’i ROTC program, graduating in 2006. “He was just a wonderful guy. Loyal, and would always give you the shirt off his back. That’s just the way he is and I could always count on him. He’d be running for you smiling. It didn’t matter what it was. Always looking out for his people. He died doing what he loved — leading soldiers. He loved it,” he said.

Johnston, who e-mailed and talked regularly with Jon, noted that he was at a remote outpost away from the comforts of a big base with PXs, dining facilities, movies, weight rooms and other amenities. “He laughed about (the conditions),” Johnston said. “I know one time he told me he hadn’t showered for like 30 days.”

Brostrom’s parents, David, a retired Army colonel, and Mary Jo, moved to O’ahu in 1999. Jonathan Brostrom has a brother, Blake, and a son, Jase, who lives with his mother Lindsey in Utah. And while he grew up in a military family, Jonathan gave no indication he’d follow in his father’s footsteps until he graduated from Damien when he then received a four-year UH ROTC scholarship.

“Jon was very professional, but he loved to have fun at the same time,” said Maj. Christopher Sweeney, a former instructor of Brostrom’s who now is a recruiting officer with the program. “He had a serious side, but he also loved to joke around, and that’s what made him a joy to have in class.” Sweeney taught Brostrom during his junior year. Each year, a cadet was selected to attend dive school at Pearl Harbor, and Brostrom was selected that year. “He was the one cadet, and he made it through there with flying colors,” Sweeney said.

Maj. Ed Leo, executive officer of the UH Army ROTC program, said Brostrom was a “distinguished military graduate” in his senior year in the top 20 percent of the 4,000 university Army ROTC cadets enrolled in 270 universities. “He was one of the very rare students,” Leo said, “who during the summers was able to graduate from the Army’s air assault, airborne and dive school.” Leo described Brostrom as “a good-natured kid who was very tough … and a leader. If he had been on the football (team), he wouldn’t have been the quarterback, but the linebacker.”

1st Lt. Brandon Kennedy remembered “Jon Boy” Brostrom from time spent at Fort Benning, Ga., and the deployment to Afghanistan, where they eventually went to different companies. The day before Brostrom left for Wanat, Kennedy caught up with him at nearby Camp Blessing. There, the one-upmanship began. “No matter what I did, he’d always climbed a higher mountain, carried a heavier ruck,” Kennedy said jokingly. Their last hours together were spent in the weight room, and that’s how Kennedy said he’ll remember the accomplished leader — always striving to make himself better.

Brostrom loved to surf and one of the photos on the family computer is of Jonathan and his son, Jase, tandem surfing with Diamond Head in the distance. “He enjoyed his time here in Hawai’i, I know that,” 2LT Nathan Esafe, friend of the family, said. “He called it home.”

“He just loved it. He loved the culture. He loved the people,” Johnston said. “There’s no other place he’d want to go home to.”

“Dad. I know you’re a very brave soldier. I know you saved America. I love you very very much. I miss you very much. I wish you could send me a Star Wars Lego set down from Heaven for my next birthday.”
- Jase, 6, Jon’s Son

“Jonathan will always be in our hearts — a proud father, a loving brother and a cherished son. He was our world, and we miss him more than words can express. Jon was a Hawaii boy and a true patriot who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.”
- The words of a proud father, COL (R) Dave Brostrom.

Fellow cadets in the University of Hawaii Army ROTC program said Sione Lefao was a humble and quiet young man with a strong heart. “His character and his actions spoke for him most of the time. He didn’t really say much,” fellow cadet Pase Valentino said. “We’re pretty much in shock right now,” ROTC. Maj. James Barros said. Barros said Lefao and two friends from his UH dorm went kayaking Saturday to the twin islands off Lanikai beach in Kailua.when a wave swept Lefao off rocks and into the ocean. “They tried to hold onto the rock. They tried to hold onto Sione but the current was to strong for them,” he said. Fire rescuers found his body Sunday afternoon. Valentino called Lefao’s mother in American Samoa. “There really were no words for me. I couldn’t say much. All I could do was listen to hear her cry. You can’t really say much when a mother cries,” he said. “His mom said, ‘It’s nobody’s fault. It just happened,’” Barros said.

Lefao was a sophomore studying political science. His ROTC class was scheduled to be commissioned in May 2013. “He actually enlisted first with the 100th battalion 442nd infantry regiment as an infantryman. What he wanted to do was eventually commission as an officer through our program,” said ROTC Capt. Jesus Cruz said, who recruited Lefao. Those close to him described Lefao as a strong cadet with a strong desire to succeed. He was 22 years old.

-Hawaii News Now