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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 6:32 p.m., Friday, April 14, 2006

Families of fallen military to get state Medal of Honor

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Members of 48 families from Hawai'i, across the Mainland, Guam and Saipan are expected to receive the state's new Medal of Honor on Tuesday on behalf of service members who gave their lives in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

As of Feb. 28, Hawai'i had lost 120 service members with Hawai'i ties in the line of duty.

Among those who will be at the joint session of the state Legislature for the 10 a.m. presentation will be Theresa Inouye, whose son was killed in Iraq.

Sgt. Deyson Cariaga, 20, of Kalihi, was killed by a roadside bomb on July 8 outside Logistics Support Area Anaconda north of Baghdad. The 2002 Roosevelt High School graduate was the only Hawai'i-based casualty from the nearly yearlong Hawai'i National Guard and Reserve deployment to Iraq.

"It's nice to know that people still recognize the fact that the war is still going on out there," Inouye said. "My son won't be the last, but they are fighting for a cause. I don't want that cause to be forgotten."

The silver and gold medal, with a circle of kalo leaves and maltese cross representing axes of the globe and Hawai'i as the crossroads of the Pacific, was approved by the Legislature in 2005.

Inouye said the nine months since her son's death have been a roller coaster of emotions with many lows. It doesn't get easier, she said. "There's just days you can't believe it happened, still," she said.

Inouye is thankful that the Legislature is recognizing her son's sacrifice. But it also brings back a lot of hurt that remains very raw.

"It's a double-edged sword," she said.

She tries to dwell on the things that Deyson enjoyed, such as going to the beach, a family vacation to Las Vegas and regular Jamba Juice runs.

"Little things like that. It's the good things you try to remember," she said.

Recipients of the medal include active duty, National Guard and Reserve forces who were residents of Hawai'i, went to school here, were stationed here, or were attached to Hawai'i units.

About 200 people are expected to attend the ceremony, coming from inside and outside the state, officials said. Families not present will receive the Medals of Honor through state adjutants in home states.

The special joint session of the Legislature will be held in the House chambers. Each fallen service member will be recognized by name, toll of a bell, and presentation of Koa-cased Hawai'i Medal of Honor to a family member. The public is invited to attend, but there will be no public parking for the event at the capitol.

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