Monday, May 2, 2011

"We Will Never Ever Forget" Our Heroes

Yesterday, with the news of the death of Al Qaueda leader Osama Bin Laden, the first thing many of us were probably thinking about was the tremendous cost of human life, suffering and sacrifices made by our brave men and women in the armed services and their families. Many were our neighbors and friends.

The day seemed like it may never get here. It felt like sometimes we were chasing a ghost and maybe we might give up the chase. But in the end we, as Americans, did not forget and we will never forget that horrible day on September 11, 2001 and all the horrible things that happened before and since at the hands and plans of that man.

In my home city of Fullerton, we had five men that either lived, were born or came from the National Guard Station in our town that paid the ultimate sacrifice in this war and were instrumental in arriving at this day.

Today, we thought it would be an appropriate thing to remember them again. They are our hometown heroes afterall and we will never, ever forget their service. Thank you. - Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Army Sgt. Shin W. Kim

Died June 28, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Fullerton, Calif.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died June 28 of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Balad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices. Also killed were Sgt. Michael J. Martinez, Sgt. Giann C. Joya Mendoza, Spc. Dustin L. Workman II and Pfc. Cory F. Hiltz.

Shin Kim's Story: During two weeks of home leave from Iraq in February, Army Sgt. Shinwoo Kim surrounded himself with friends and relatives, binged on junk food and traveled to Las Vegas.

The combat medic from Fullerton, however, couldn’t leave Iraq completely behind. Before returning to the battlefield, he visited a memorial to Iraq’s dead on a Santa Monica beach and left the name of a fallen friend on one cross in the precise rows of crosses.

“It was like something he just had to do,” said his girlfriend Tammy Cho.

Shinwoo, 23, was among five soldiers killed in a June 28 Baghdad attack. Last weekend, it was his family’s turn to pay tribute to him at the memorial, known as Arlington West.

“We know he’s gone. But I guess we haven’t fully accepted it,” said his sister Shinae, 27. “My mom and dad are having a difficult time coping. We all are. Shinwoo was the baby. My mom never stopped calling him her baby.”

The family keeps a shrine with his picture and combat awards in their living room, and a certificate granting the South Korean native posthumous U.S. citizenship.

Kim’s parents, Yoo Buk and Kum Ok Kim, emigrated from South Korea with their three children 20 years ago. They said they didn’t want their son to enlist in the Army.

But he was moved to enlist by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“He kept newspaper stories about the attacks and terrorism,” his brother Josh, 31, said. “We didn’t want him to join, but after he did we all supported him.”

Kum King, with Josh translating, said if she spoke better English she would have demanded the recruiter tear up her son’s enlistment contract.

He volunteered to be a medic because he wanted to help people, not hurt them, Cho said.

Kim served in South Korea for a year before deploying to Iraq. He came home on leave in 2006 and thought he was to be permanently assigned to Fort Carson, Colo. He was ordered back to Iraq soon after.

Josh Kim said his brother did not die immediately from the attack. A doctor in Iraq held a telephone to Kim’s ear as his family bid the unconscious soldier goodbye from their Fullerton home.

Army Sgt. Eric M. Holke

Died July 15, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

31, of Crestline, Calif.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; died July 15 in Tallil, Iraq, of wounds sustained from a non-combat-related incident. His death is under investigation.

Eric's Story:
Sgt. Eric Holke, hungry for life experience, performed at Renaissance fairs, spent two years in the California wilderness and served with the Army and National Guard.

Holke, 31, was on his second tour in Iraq, serving with the California Army National Guard, when he died in a non-combat incident in Tallil. Family said he died when the Humvee he was in swerved and flipped when it tried to avoid hitting an Iraqi.

“It’s very sad that he’s gone,” his sister Erin Holke said. “I wish he was still alive and coming back to his huge family and all the things he loved to do.”

This included anything in the outdoors, such as hiking, skiing and snowboarding. He joined the California Conservation Corps after graduating from high school and spent two years in the woods of Northern California.

After returning from the wilderness, Holke became active in the Renaissance fair circuit. At the fairs, he demonstrated how the German military lived in the 1400s through 1600s.

“It was a lot of fun seeing him get into the character,” said Tom Wilson, a fair producer. “You could talk to him for an hour and he would still have the accent.”

Holke, who died just a few weeks after his deployment, left behind a new wife and son, parents, a sister and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

He met and married his wife Cassidhe after returning from Afghanistan and Iraq as a soldier with the 82nd Airborne.

He had been honorably discharged from the Army in 2005 and was studying business and film at San Bernardino Valley College when the two met. He also had recently joined the California National Guard.

Holke and his wife also lived with her 16-year-old son, Steven. He was called to serve and in March left for Camp Shelby, Miss. He was deployed to Iraq in June.

At his funeral service July 22, the military presented his family five medals, including the Bronze Star.

Army Pfc. Shane M. Stinson
Died June 23, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Fullerton, Calif.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died June 23 in Balad, Iraq of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire in Baghdad. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Michael D. Moody Jr. and Sgt. Chris Davis.

Shane's Story: Shane Stinson got to do a lot on his first leave home from Iraq.

For two weeks last month, he celebrated his 23rd birthday with his family in Orange County, went to the beach and took in three games with his favorite baseball team, the Angels.

But he wanted to get back to work.

“He was happy to be home, but he said he missed his buddies in Iraq and he was ready to go back and serve,” said his brother, Rhyan Stinson. “Coming home, several people stopped him to shake his hand and thank him for his service. That made him very proud.”

Stinson, an Army private, was killed June 23 when attackers fired on his unit in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Benning, Ga.

“My brother believed in what he was doing over there and he wanted to better his life,” Rhyan Stinson said. “It hurts that he doesn’t get a chance anymore.”

Stinson told his brother he eventually wanted to attend business school and open a sporting-goods shop.

Stinson was born in Artesia but attended Troy High School in Fullerton. He earned his general-equivalency diploma in 2001.

He worked for three years at Toys “R” Us before deciding to enlist.

“We were all concerned for him, but he’s the kind of guy you don’t talk out of it,” said a friend, Justin Matthews.

In addition to his brother, Stinson is survived by his mother, Evelyn, and his stepfather, Joseph Hackerd.

Army Spc. Marcelino R. Corniel

Died December 31, 2005 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of La Puente, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; killed Dec. 31 when an enemy mortar attack occurred in the vicinity of his observation post in Baghdad.

Marcelino's Story:
An Army National Guard member killed in Iraq was posthumously promoted to sergeant and will be awarded a Purple Heart, officials said Friday.

Marcelino R. Corniel, 23, of La Puente, was killed New Year’s Eve during a mortar attack in Baghdad. He had just five days left to serve in Iraq. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, based in Fullerton in Orange County.

Corniel had served in Iraq as a Marine and joined the National Guard in June. He volunteered to go to Iraq, said Maj. Jon Siepmann of the California National Guard.

The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who are wounded by the enemy and can be presented posthumously to those killed in action.

Corniel also will posthumously be awarded the Bronze Star, national Defense Ribbon and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

Army Spc. Mike T. Sonoda Jr.
Died September 22, 2005 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

34, of Fallbrook, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; died Sept. 22 of injuries sustained Sept. 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M113 Armored Personnel Carrier in Baghdad.

Mike's Story: Mike Sonoda Jr., a specialist with the California Army National Guard, was killed in Iraq last month when a homemade bomb blew up near his armored personnel carrier.

Sonoda, 34, died Sept. 22 of injuries suffered a day earlier in the Baghdad explosion. He was the only soldier killed.

Sonoda had been living in Fallbrook in San Diego County before he was deployed to Iraq in January with the guard’s 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment.

Sonoda often was the first to volunteer for patrols, said Maj. Daniel Markert, one of his commanders.

“He was the kind of guy the younger soldiers would look up to and the older sergeants could rely on,” Markert said. “He was a real spirit of the platoon.”

He relaxed by reading science fiction and history.

“He could read a 300-page book in a day, and he would always come back for more,” Markert said.

Sonoda was “very caring and generous, inquisitive and dedicated,” said his sister, Irene.

“He was my big brother and my hero. Our entire family is so proud of his service,” she said in a statement.

Sonoda joined the Army in 1995 and served about two years as a parachute rigger with the 325th Airborne in Italy.

He joined the National Guard two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and served in Kuwait until March 2002.

He was due to return to the United States early next year.

In addition to his sister, Sonoda is survived by his parents, Mike Sr. and Emiko.

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