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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Funeral for a fallen warrior

By William Cole and Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writers

All of Hawai'i turned out to remember 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe last night at Kawaiaha'o Church, it seemed. Certainly it was a cross-section rarely seen.

A Hawaiian honor guard escorts Nainoa Hoe's coffin past, from left: brother Nakoa, in Army uniform; wife, Emily; mother, Adele; and father, Allen.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

More than 650 mourners crowded into the church to pay their respects. Among them were Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, former Gov. John Waihee, other elected officials, business leaders, soldiers and ordinary people wanting to say goodbye.

Hoe, 27, who was killed on Jan. 22 in Mosul, Iraq, was so many things to so many people.

The popular platoon leader with a smile that would light up a room was a son, a brother, a husband, a 1995 Kamehameha Schools graduate, a University of Hawai'i ROTC standout and wore an Army Ranger tab.

Hoe was a modern-day soldier, but he also considered himself a Hawaiian warrior. So it was fitting that a blend of Hoe's two cultures gathered last night to say aloha to their hero.

Hoe's flag-draped coffin arrived at the church in a white hearse. He was greeted by chanters as well as warriors from both the Hawaiian and military communities. Four barefoot warriors clad in black kiheis and four Army soldiers in Class-A dress uniforms carried the coffin past family, led by two more warriors with koa and ohia spears.

A procession of people waiting to get into the church and offer condolences to the family stretched to Punchbowl Street from about 5:30 p.m. until 6:45 p.m. The Maunawili man will be buried today at the Hawai'i State Veterans Cemetery in Kane'ohe.

Hoe's funeral was a cooperative effort between military and Native Hawaiian organizations, combining aspects of two warrior cultures.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Tommy Kaulukukui Jr., a longtime friend of the Hoe family, said last night's service was planned to reflect Hoe's heritage and love for his country.

"Nainoa considered himself a Hawaiian warrior, but he also was a modern-day soldier," Kaulukukui, one of the pallbearers, said. "The service was a blend of the two backgrounds that he had."

The two chants that greeted Hoe's body expressed the grief of the mourners and also "cleared the way" for Hoe, Kaulukukui said.

Several Hawaiian warriors were to stand vigil with Hoe overnight at the Kamehameha Schools chapel.

Lt. Col. James Johnson, a professor of military science at UH who knew Hoe as a cadet during his last year as a graduate student in business administration, said Hoe "was so genuine in his pursuit of the very best in himself and others."

"You can hear about his military record, his academic performance and how he attained excellence in those areas, but he was a genuine friend to many people," Johnson said. "For a person who lives only 27 years, he's had quite an impact."

Hoe was U.S. Army Pacific reserve soldier of the year with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, and was fourth in a 2002 national ranking of 4,500 ROTC cadets. In his last year at UH, Hoe was ROTC battalion commander.

1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe was killed Jan. 22 in Mosul, Iraq, while hunting insurgents, searching houses and encouraging people to vote.
He received his commission, earned his "jump wings," went through Ranger school and was assigned in 2004 to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment — a Stryker armored-vehicle unit from Fort Lewis, Wash. He had been in Iraq since October.

First Lt. Raymond O'Donnell said that "Nainoa's men were the most important thing to him." He always was out front, and "he never asked his men to do something he wouldn't do himself."

On Jan. 22, the 2nd Platoon leader and his soldiers were sent to the neighborhood of al-Whada in Mosul. In addition to hunting insurgents and searching houses, they were to help get out the vote for the Jan. 30 national elections.

About 3:30 p.m., Hoe was felled in the street by a single shot. Army officials later said a sniper probably singled out Hoe as the platoon leader. Hoe was wearing a bulletproof vest, but the bullet hit him in an exposed area behind his left shoulder. It traveled through both lungs and punctured his aorta before exiting his body through his right armpit.

Hundreds lined up to pay their respects at yesterday's service.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Inside Kawaiaha'o Church, more than 23 large wreaths with vivid red, green, yellow and white flowers flanked Hoe's lei-draped coffin.

Emily Hoe, who married Nainoa on the beach at the Bayer Estate in Hawai'i Kai in June, said the couple planned on having children as soon as he returned from Iraq.

He would tell her about dreaming he was coming home — and then wake up to the reality that was Iraq. He was serious and precise about his work, but he still had part of the "kid" inside and liked to watch "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoons, she said.

Hoe's father, Allen, is an attorney and active with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. His brother, Nakoa, is a private first class with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, and was preparing for duty in Iraq when word came of his brother's death.

Kahu Curt P. Kekuna, left, and friends and family of 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe gather on the steps of Kawaiaha'o Church.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Nakoa was with his parents and sister-in-law at Kawaiaha'o yesterday, on emergency leave. As a sole surviving child, Nakoa Hoe has the option of not deploying to Iraq.

"We're giving him as much time as he needs," said Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Howard Sugai.

Pam Lau, whose son Sgt. Keenan Lau is with the 100th in Kuwait awaiting Iraq duty, asked his mother during a phone call if she had heard about Nainoa's death. Keenan Lau had known Nainoa when he was with the 100th Battalion.

"He said, 'Mom, when they have the service, could you please go in my place?' " Pam Lau said.

"It's difficult," she added. "You feel for the family, pray for the family. It's a difficult time for everybody. Deep down inside, you know (what happened to Nainoa Hoe) is a possibility for your own. You hope not."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8025. Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.