Friends, family honor Isle soldier
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer
By Suzanne Roig
There were tears, prayers and shared memories of Army Sgt. Myla Maravillosa yesterday at a memorial service, one week after she died in Iraq.
Maravillosa, 24, of Wahiawa, was born in the Philippines. She was a 1999 Leilehua High School graduate.
She had been sent to Iraq on Nov. 20.
Cousin Darlene Rodrigues choked out her remembrances of Maravillosa, who was killed Christmas Eve in Iraq when the Humvee she was in was attacked by enemy forces using rocket-propelled grenades in Al Hawijah.
"She always took time to be with us when she could," Rodrigues said. "We are very, very proud of her."
Maravillosa was the only daughter of Estelita Lumayag Maravillosa. She will be buried in the Philippines near her maternal grandfather in Bohol province.
Yesterday's service was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on Bishop Street.
"I can't imagine what her mother was feeling when she was waiting for a call from Myla on Christmas Eve and instead got a call from the Defense Department telling her she had died," said Raymund Liongson, a Leeward Community College Philippine studies professor, who taught Maravillosa in two of his classes.
While in college, but before joining the Army Reserves, Maravillosa had expressed interest in becoming a nun, Liongson said.
"I remember asking her if she was sure she wanted to do this," Liongson said. "I told her that she's a kind and wonderful person who needs to multiply. But she said it was her calling."
Amid the sadness expressed by friends and military officers, there was a sense of awe that Maravillosa was always able to share her joy for life in a letter, an e-mail or by volunteering.
During the service, an e-mail was read that Maravillosa sent to her family and friends shortly before she went to Iraq. It said:
I am doing fine and this last three days I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jesus at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA. The retreat went very well and I really had a good time. I found peacefulness and I just wished that it will never end. God really showed me a lot in three days of being with Him. In going to Iraq, I will carry with me profound FAITH and HOPE but I would not also lie that am scared a little bit.
During the last couple of days, God has been inviting me to REMAIN IN HIM, and yes, I know that if I will remain in him HE will carry me through and bring me home.
"Myla was shy and petite, who wasn't assertive," said Chief Warrant Officer Inocencio Cacho, who was one of her military instructors in Hawai'i. "The best thing is, she was a Filipino-American and she always tried to do her best. We always tried to keep an eye on her and wanted her to succeed in whatever she wanted to do."
She was described by military officers, relatives and friends as a loving daughter, brilliant student and a brave soldier who loved her adopted country, the United States. She was 4 feet 10, weighed 80 pounds, and always had a smile to share, her friends said.
She volunteered in 1999 after graduating from high school and received her training at Fort Shafter Flats. She was assigned to the Army Reserve's 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion out of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
It was her ability to speak Tagalog that made the Army notice her, and in 2003 she became a member of the military intelligence unit.
A computer slide show detailed the highlights of Maravillosa's life: confirmation, a broken arm, friends and family members hanging out together.
"She had a wonderful sense of humor," Rodrigues said. "I will always remember her compassionate nature and her thoughtfulness."
Reach Suzanne Roig at email@example.com.