Slain U.S. soldier receives American citizenship
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
JR Salvacion was many things. He was born in the Philippines and given the initials of its national hero, Jose Rizal.
He was a cook at Chili's after he moved to Hawai'i to be with family.
He was a gifted guitar player.
The 'Aiea man was married and the father of a young son.
In the uniform of the U.S. Army he served his adopted nation, and gave his life for it.
Pfc. JR Salvacion, 27, was on a foot patrol on Feb. 21 in Senjaray, Afghanistan, when his Army unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device and he was killed. The town of 12,000 is near Kandahar.
Last night at Nu'uanu Memorial Park & Mortuary, as more than 400 people paid their respects, Salvacion became something else: an American citizen.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services presented Salvacion's wife, Joy, with a certificate of citizenship.
It was only the second time in Hawai'i that posthumous naturalization has been sought and granted for service members who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan, officials said.
In late 2004, Army Pvt. Jeungjin "Nikky" Kim, 23, was granted citizenship posthumously in Honolulu after the South Korean native was killed in a roadside bomb and small-arms attack in Iraq.
As of the end of June, there were nearly 115,000 foreign-born individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.
When U.S. military members who are not U.S. citizens die while on active duty, their next of kin can become eligible to apply for a posthumous citizenship commemorating their bravery and sacrifice.
Salvacion moved to Hawai'i and later joined the Army for the betterment of himself and his family, relatives said.
Salvacion, who joined the Army just over a year ago, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo.
He was deployed to Afghanistan as an infantryman in August.
"He was so excited. The first time he got into the Army, he called me and was so proud to be in the Army," said his older brother, Sammy.
His son Zildjian, who turned 1 on Jan. 24, slept most of the evening in his mother's arms as she wiped tears from her eyes.
JR Salvacion's American flag-draped casket was flanked by eight large bouquets of flowers in the east chapel at Nu'uanu mortuary.
Koa Gonzaga, 32, who knew Salvacion from their days at Chili's, was still shocked at the loss of his friend.
"It's not enough time (to live)," he said. "We've been through a lot of stuff."
When they both worked at Chili's around 2002, "Pretty much every weekend we went down to the beach. He had his guitar."
"There were so many fun moments. Just his jokes, and the way he would talk," Gonzaga said. Salvacion would say "bubble jum" instead of "bubble gum" and crack up his friends.
"With him it was always good times," Gonzaga said.
Gov. Linda Lingle said in a proclamation that Salvacion "leaves a legacy of great honor and will be fondly remembered by those whose lives he touched."
Lingle ordered flags at state and county buildings to fly at half-staff today.
Salvacion also is survived by his father, Angelito; his mother, Milagros Robiniol; and sister, Richelle Ann Robiniol.
Visitation will be held again today from 9 to 10 a.m. at St. Anthony Church in Kalihi. A Mass is at 10 a.m. He will be buried at 1 p.m. at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.