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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hawai'i soldier buried

By Oliver Teves
Associated Press

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Schumacher, right, of the Military Intelligence Readiness Command at Fort Belvoir, Va., and U.S. Embassy Chief of Mission Scott Bellard lead the funeral march for U.S. Army Sgt. Myla Maravillosa, in the Philippines’ Bohol province.

PAT ROQUE | Associated Press

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INABANGA, Philippines — An American soldier from Hawai'i was buried today with full U.S. military honors in the village where she grew up before migrating to America nine years ago.

A Roman Catholic chapel near the childhood home of Army Sgt. Myla Maravillosa, 24, in the village of Uog in central Inabanga town was too small to accommodate all of the hundreds of people attending the funeral Mass.

A contingent of U.S. Army honor guards was led by Brig. Gen. Gregory Schumacher. Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado directed all Philippine flags in the province be flown at half staff.

Schumacher, commander of the Military Intelligence Readiness Command at Fort Belvoir, Va., described Maravillosa as a "true Filipino-American hero" who "represented the very best of the qualities that we desire in our soldiers and indeed represented the very best of humanity itself."

"The ties between the United States and the Philippines are deep and enduring and she is a symbol of that very strong relationship," he said.

Schumacher knelt as he offered the folded U.S. flag that draped Maravillosa's coffin to her mother, together with her daughter's medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Relatives and friends released white balloons with the message, "We will always remember, we will love you forever." Maravillosa's mother, Estelita, clutched the U.S. flag and watched quietly as people wept.

"What sorrows I have now, I have to accept because that is her fate," Maravillosa said at the chapel. "She died not in vain. She died for a cause — for the freedom of the whole world."

Provincial administrator Tomas Abapo said Maravillosa "died an honorable death in an important war" against terrorism, which is also plaguing the Philippines.

Maravillosa moved to Hawai'i when she was 16 to join her mother, who migrated in 1986. She graduated from Leilehua High School in 1999 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve that year.

On Christmas Eve, Maravillosa's Humvee was attacked by Iraqi insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortally wounding her, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Maravillosa, an interrogator assigned to the 301st Military Intelligence Battalion, had been in Iraq for a little more than a month.

Her grade-school teacher, Dulce Betinol, said she could not imagine "this cute, gentle girl, so sweet with a ready smile" joining the Army and marching to war.

"None of us thought or even just dreamed that our (village would) ever produce such a young woman with such commitment, serving at the cost of her life," Betinol said.