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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Soldier from Hawai'i killed on Iraq patrol

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

First Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, a native son of Hawai'i, a Kamehameha Schools graduate and a University of Hawai'i ROTC standout, has been killed in battle in Iraq.

Army 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, a Hawai'i native, was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Iraq Saturday as he led a foot patrol in the restive city of Mosul.

Family photo via Associated Press

"I want to get it out there that Nainoa was my husband, he was a son, he was a brother, he was a living, breathing person," said his wife, Emily Hoe, whose memories include her husband's serious Army side, but also him singing karaoke oldies after their wedding.

A total of 1,365 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq, the Pentagon reported yesterday. Fifty-two have ties to Hawai'i.

"I know it's so easy with the media — every day you hear about one more soldier killed, and we've become just so desensitized to it," Emily Hoe said. "I really want to get Nainoa out there and honor him and let everyone know what a wonderful man and soldier he was."

Hoe, 27, was shot and killed Saturday while on foot patrol in restive Mosul, where U.S. forces have been mounting stepped-up raids and patrols ahead of national elections scheduled for Sunday.

The 1995 Kamehameha graduate, with a Stryker armored vehicle unit out of Fort Lewis, Wash., was struck by gunfire from a passing car that sprayed bullets at Hoe's unit, his wife said.

Although soldiers wear chest and back bulletproof plates, the round hit him under the arm and passed through his heart.

"He went really quickly. They took him to a hospital, but it was too late," said Emily Hoe from her parents' home in Newberg, Ore. No one else was hit.

Hoe, originally from Kailua, graduated with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Hawai'i in 2003.

Nainoa and Emily Hoe were married in June in Hawai'i Kai. He e-mailed her just hours before his death, Emily says.

Family photo

He was named U.S. Army Pacific Reserve soldier of the year with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry before continuing his education and receiving a commission as a second lieutenant in 2003.

In his last year at UH, Hoe was ROTC battalion commander. The year before, it was Jeremy Wolfe, a Hawai'i Pacific University student.

Wolfe, 27, of Menomonie, Wis., was killed Nov. 15, 2003, with Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Bolor, 37, of Lahaina, Maui, in the crash of two Black Hawk helicopters in Mosul.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Takao, who previously headed up the UH ROTC program, and now is in charge of Junior ROTC at Punahou, said he was "deeply shocked" when he got word over the weekend of Hoe's death.

"Nainoa — just like Jeremy Wolfe — was the top cadet at the UH when I was there," Takao said. "Jeremy and Nainoa, there's just something exceptional about these guys. They were just so well-mannered. They are not self-serving, 'Oh, I'm going to be the next general.' They were just unassuming, and they were great kids to be around."

Hoe's death, like that of other Hawai'i service members before him, cuts extra deep, and across lines. His father, Allen, is an attorney and active with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. His younger brother, Nakoa, is a private first class in the 100th Battalion and preparing for deployment to Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Blake A. Magaoay, 20, a 2002 Pearl City High graduate, was the most recent service member from Hawai'i to be killed before Hoe, falling to an enemy ambush Nov. 29 in Fallujah as Marines burst into a house looking for insurgents.

Nakoa Hoe is back in Hawai'i with family, who are leaving today for a memorial service tomorrow at Fort Lewis, Emily Hoe said. Her husband's body will be taken from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and later brought to Hawai'i for burial at the Hawai'i State Veterans Cemetery in Kane'ohe. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made here.

Their son's death has hit Allen and Adele Hoe hard, said Fred Kobashigawa, a family friend.

"The family really appreciates the love and support, and they want people to continue to pray for the troops in Iraq right now, especially the guys from Hawai'i," Kobashigawa said.

Hoe had been in Mosul, a Sunni Arab city where anti-American sentiment runs deep, for about four months, his wife said.

"I've just been sick to my stomach waiting for these elections to happen. I knew that was one of our biggest hurdles to get through," said Emily Hoe, 21.

The run-up has seen a surge in attacks in an attempt to derail the process.

"He couldn't tell me a lot with the operational security, but I knew that he was proud to be doing his job and to be serving his country," she added. "That was first and foremost. He loved his job."

He sent an e-mail just a couple of hours before going out on Saturday's mission saying that he had found out he was getting leave on Feb. 6.

"So I'm scheduled to fly out of Iraq on that day ... probably that night. Meaning I'll be home for Valentine's Day ... most likely," Nainoa Hoe wrote. "I do want to go to Hawai'i during leave, no matter how much it costs."

The couple, who got married on the beach at the Bayer Estate in Hawai'i Kai in June in a simple service, wanted to go to the Big Island and spend some time together.

Nainoa Hoe was very charismatic, and serious and precise about his job, his wife said. But he also loved karaoke.

"I finally got to hear him sing for the first time in front of me after our wedding," said Emily Hoe, a Western Oregon University student. "He loved just getting up there in front of the crowd and entertaining. His smile could light up the whole room."

He liked the "oldies kind of music," and she would tease him about being an old man at 27. He also liked to body surf in Hawai'i.

From Kamehameha Schools headmaster Michael Chun and state Adjutant Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee to soldiers and friends he served with, Hoe stood out and made an impression that was hard to pin down.

"I just can't find the words to express the sorrow that we have. We lost one of ours. This is the first from Kamehameha in the war," Chun said.

He added that "with some kids, what makes them stand out is that they are just solid kids. Nainoa was one of those kids. Just a solid person," Chun said. "I guess he had a good heart, and I guess that laid the foundation for where he was coming from."

Lee, who heads up the Hawai'i National Guard, said that knowing Hoe as a soldier, "he was the kind of leader you could sense, this is a guy I would follow."

Fellow soldiers, friends and their families left a long stream of condolences, remembrances and accolades for Hoe on a Stryker unit Web page.

Emily Hoe said she is continuing to box up Valentine's Day care packages for "his guys."

"I know they are taking it real hard losing Nainoa," she said. "They were all close. It was like a family."

She added that she supports the troops "110 percent, and I continue to do so."

"But I have a lot of questions about the war and why we're there. There's a lot of things I'm unsure of," she said. "I still keep waiting to wake up out of this dream. It does not feel real. But I've had so much family and friends here, and everyone is really helping me get through it."

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