Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, October 21, 2004

Hawai'i, Korea remember brave son

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Outside the church in Nu'uanu, Pvt. Jeungjin "Nikky" Kim smiled from 11 photos that traced his life from infancy in South Korea to adulthood in Hawai'i and U.S. Army service in Iraq.

After services at Honolulu Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nu'uanu, the flag-draped casket of Pvt. Jeungjin Kim was carried by a funeral detail from Schofield Barracks past his mother, Mi-young Jang, left; wife, A Young Kim; and father, Jyueng Kyoo Kim.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

There was Kim as a boy of about 4. A photo of him as an adult sitting on the floor in shorts and slippers eating take-out food. Kim head-to-head with his wife, whom he met on O'ahu. A picture as he was about to board a World Airlines charter, looking confident, an M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder, another soldier smiling behind him. A picture of Kim in the blowing deserts of the Middle East.

The 23-year-old was killed Oct. 6 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, in an attack that included a roadside bomb and small-arms fire.

For the more than 200 family and friends who came to his funeral — including his parents, who flew in from South Korea — those memories are all that is left.

Yesterday at Honolulu Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, Kim's wife promised to carry on his memory as she stood before 20 huge flower wreaths and his casket, draped in an American flag.

"There's so many things that I want to say. We were supposed to be together forever, and we still are going to be together forever, baby," said A Young Kim, 23, as she looked down at her husband's silver casket. "Baby, I'm going to love you for the rest of my life, OK?"

Kim was eager to serve overseas, his wife told the group.

"My husband was really excited to go to Iraq," she said in a sometimes halting voice. "In the Army, we say 'hooah.' He was a hooah soldier."

Kim, a South Korean national, had been in Iraq since early September. He was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery of the 2nd Infantry Division from Camp Hovey, South Korea.

His wife, a 1999 Hawaiian Mission Academy graduate who followed her husband into the Army in 2003, said she might have been in Iraq, but she gave birth Sept. 7 to Apollo Ikaika Kim, a son his father never got to meet.

A funeral detail from Schofield Barracks rolls the casket of Pvt. Jeungjin "Nikky" Kim to the committal ceremony at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The Punchbowl burial was made possible by the rare occasion of a family giving up its reserved plot.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"We're going to take care of Apollo. He's going to go to Punahou like you wanted him to, and be a good athlete and smart," Young Kim told her husband.

Kim moved to Hawai'i seven years ago. He and his wife married in 2001. He had gone to Hawai'i Pacific University before joining the Army, and wanted to become a Honolulu police officer when he got out.

At least four family members from South Korea, including parents Jeung Kyoo Kim and Mi-young Jang, flew in for the service and burial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

"He wanted to be a world person, so he joined the U.S. Army to become a policeman in the future," said his uncle from South Korea, Kwanbo Kim. "At the moment of his death, Jeungjin showed brave behavior. That's on his parents' mind."

Brig. Gen. Brian Bowers presents to A Young Kim the flag that draped her husband's casket after the committal ceremony. Young Kim, also a soldier, gave birth to their son, Apollo Ikaika Kim, on Sept. 7.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Kwanbo Kim said his nephew "devoted himself for world peace." He said his nephew's sacrifice "will ... improve the relations between the United States and Korea for world peace. If the world is for international peace, we should not avoid that kind of war (Iraq) to root out enemies."

Gov. Linda Lingle expressed her condolences, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, sent a message saying Kim was an example of the dedication of the men and women of the U.S. armed services to the ideals of freedom and liberty.

But for many who came to the funeral service, Kim was a friend, a relative, a man who liked his souped-up Hyundai Tiburon, going to clubs and playing the online game Counter-Strike.

Tae Kim remembered Nikky's "wicked" laugh and a rare golf outing for which his friend turned up in golf shirt and slacks.

23 with Hawai'i ties are killed

Pvt. Jeungjin Kim and was one of 13 soldiers with the 2nd Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team who have been killed in Iraq since the unit entered the country about 10 weeks ago.

The past week has been the deadliest for Schofield Barracks soldiers. Two Hawai'i-based soldiers were killed in Afghanistan last Thursday when their Humvee struck a mine, while two 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment soldiers became the 22nd and 23rd fatalities for service members with Hawai'i ties when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter collided with another in Iraq on Saturday.

Funeral services for Kyle Ka'eo Fernandez of Pearl City, one of those killed in Afghanistan, will be tonight and tomorrow. Borthwick Mortuary is handling the arrangements.

"Nikky always wore hip-hop clothes, so when we saw him ... we were, like, dang," said Tae Kim. "We went to the golf course, and it was funny. He was very terrible."

Kim was buried yesterday afternoon beneath a flowering pink plumeria tree on the mauka side of Punchbowl. Six soldiers from a Schofield Barracks honor guard raised the American flag from the casket under a gazebo and held it aloft with white-gloved hands for a gun salute and playing of taps.

The soldiers folded the flag deliberately and carefully, and a staff sergeant raised a salute to Young Kim in a slow arc to the brim of his hat. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Brian Bowers, with headquarters, 8th U.S. Army in Korea, presented identical American flags to Kim's wife and mother.

Kim also was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Although Punchbowl is full for casketed burials, space opened up when a family with a reserved site decided to have remains scattered at sea. Before 1973, when the U.S. Army ran the cemetery, two plots were set aside per family. Seven or eight times in the last 10 years, families have given up a reserved plot, said director Gene Castagnetti.

Jonelle Hoshino, 23, a step-cousin to Young Kim, sat on the stoop of the Nu'uanu church after the service, holding her 16-month-old son.

"I cried a lot. It was really tragic. He never got to see his son," she said. "It's just tragic. You never think it will happen to your family."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.