Isle son killed in Iraq laid to rest
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAI'I — Six Marines offered a farewell salute to Lance Cpl. Kristen Keola (Figueroa) Marino then carried his casket out of Kane'ohe Bay's base chapel accompanied by a family member strumming "Hawai'i Aloha/Aloha 'Oe" on 'ukulele.
It was a fitting tribute from friends, relatives and fellow Marines to the 20-year-old, a Honolulu native who was killed March 12 during combat operations in Al Anbar province in Iraq. His death came 18 months after fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a Marine. Awarded the Purple Heart posthumously, Marino was honored yesterday as a hero by the Corps.
"For every soldier, fallen or not, serving our country, I respect their beliefs and honor their courage," Sandi Marino said in a brief statement following her son's service.
Alfred Marino, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army, said he and his wife are proud of their son's sacrifice in the service of his country as a Marine.
He noted that they were deeply touched by a telephone conversation they had yesterday with one of his Marine friends, Scott Fischer.
"Hearing from one of his friends, who shared with us things they did together, meant a lot," said Alfred Marino, the rifleman's stepfather. The Marine had his last name legally changed from Figueroa to Marino two months ago.
Marino, a graduate of the Hawai'i National Guard Youth Challenge Academy, joined the Marine Corps in September 2004 and was sent to Iraq last September. His other service awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and War on Terrorism Service Medal. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Shaun Rivera and John Fitzpatrick, both Kristen Marino's friends since the three were sixth-graders at Washington Middle School, said they enjoyed bodysurfing and "cruising" together.
"He always talked about serving his country and wanted to be a Marine," said Rivera, who 10 years ago introduced his friend, also known as Keola, to Horizon Christian Fellowship Honolulu services and Pastor Francis Kamehele.
"Everyone knew him as quiet, but around us he was a clown who made us laugh," Rivera said. "I'm going to miss him."
When asked what his friend might say to comfort him, Rivera said, "He'd say live life for the both of us."
Fitzpatrick said Marino, who expected to return from combat next month, enjoyed getting together with his friends whenever he came home.
"When you don't see somebody for a long time, they change," Fitzpatrick said. "But whenever he came back, Keola didn't miss a beat."
Kamehele, who presided at the service with Chaplain Daniel Owens, remembered meeting "the skinny little runt kid" that was Marino at 10 years old.
"Don't let that skinny kid fool you — this kid could eat," Kamehele said during his eulogy, drawing a chuckle from those in attendance as he continued with a story about Marino wiping out a large helping of loco moco at a Kaka'ako diner.
Kamehele also noted, "He always wanted to be a Marine ... and he wanted to make a better life for his mom, dad and family, and also make himself better. He was always reaching for a higher goal.
"He was a loving son, a strong Christian," added Kamehele, pausing to wipe away tears, "and a brave soldier. Keola gave his life so we may live our lives."
Since the March 2003 start of the Iraq war, 64 Marines and sailors with Hawai'i-based units or Hawai'i ties have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Outside the chapel, Staff Sgt. Anthony Chopito and several other Marines who attended the service watched as the flag-draped coffin was lifted into a hearse to be taken to Hawai'i State Veterans Cemetery in Kane'ohe for burial.
"We came to pay our respect to a Marine, a fallen brother," Chopito said. "It's a sad day for his family, and we're here for them."
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.