Maui family grieves fallen soldier
By Claudine San Nicholas
KAHULUI — Family members wept Monday at Kahului Airport as Army Pfc. Charlie Antonio arrived home in a casket draped with an American flag.
It was the first time since learning of their loved one's death that Antonio's mother and father, his three younger siblings and other relatives could touch the casket.
"We want very much to see him," Arlene Antonio said just prior to the touchdown of an Air Force C-17 aircraft that carried her brother's body to Maui from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The Defense Department confirmed that Antonio died April 18 in Annassar, Iraq, from injuries from a noncombat incident while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He is the second soldier with Hawaii ties to die this year while serving in Iraq. He is the fifth soldier with Maui ties to die in the war.
Arlene Antonio said her family was told her brother died from a gunshot to the head, but no further details have been provided. They were also told a military investigation was continuing.
The day after Charlie Antonio's death, family members flew to Delaware where they witnessed a military escort carry his casket off a plane. But they were not permitted to get any closer.
The arrival of Antonio's casket included a salute by a military escort and the presence of Kahului Airport and Transportation Security Administration officials, the Kahului Airport Fire Department crew and Maui Police Department officers, including Chief Gary Yabuta.
Deacon Cornelio Pulido of Christ The King Church extended a prayer over the casket after it was carried by a six-man military escort off the aircraft and taken to Ballard Family Mortuary.
Service arrangements are pending.
Pfc. Charlie Antonio was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colo.
He was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to Maui in 1999 at the age of 18 with his father. The two worked a variety of jobs, and saved money for about three years before they sponsored the rest of the immediate family to the Valley Isle.
"He was our hero, our family hero," Arlene Antonio said. "Now he's everybody's hero."
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