Soldier Down

100th Infantry Battalion, Iraq

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100th Bn crest 442nd Regt crest Historical Note and Introduction, by the Webmaster:
Officers and enlisted men of Japanese ancestry were withdrawn from the Hawaiian National Guard 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments in early 1942, forming the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion. That unit was then designated the 100th Infantry Battlion (Nisei) (Separate), next to go into combat at Salerno as the 100th "Purple Heart" Infantry Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division.

The 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, of today's U.S. Army Reserves, is the only remaining Infantry unit in our Army Reserve force structure (with Companies from the islands of Oahu, Guam, and American Samoa). The Battalion is now in Iraq under command of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade (SIB), the principal unit in the Hawaii Army National Guard (HIARNG).

BG Joseph Chavez, Commanding 29th Brigade, was given authority by GEN Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff, US Army, to allow the Battalion to wear the 'Torch of Liberty' 442nd Infantry shoulder sleeve insignia during this mobilization and deployment.

The letter below from the Command Sergeant Major of the Battalion to the 'Puka Puka Parade', monthly newsletter of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club, is reprinted with The Sergeant Major's permission.

All of our veterans know well the vital role played by the 100th Infantry Battalion as Red Bulls from Salerno to Rome. And we remember their transfer at Civitavecchia from the 133rd Infantry Regiment to the 442nd "Go For Broke" Infantry Regiment which became, for a while, the fourth Regiment of our proud Division.

From: Sergeant Major Harold P. Estabrooks,
Command Sergeant Major, 100th Bn / 442nd Infantry

To; The 100th Battalion Veterans,

It is hard to believe that it is August, but it is. The heat is starting to break as the days grow shorter, it ranges from 105 to 110, but we do not see the 120 plus as often as we did in July. It dawned on us that we have not seem any clouds lately. We had them when we arrived, it rained a few times, but we cannot remember the last time we have seen one. Up north in the mainland we always watched for the robin, upon seeing the third you knew it was spring. We hope seeing clouds are the announcement of the fall. We had a tremendous dust storm 4 days ago, it lasted for 2 days, it enveloped the area in partial darkness and a fine layer of dust, and it is everywhere. The soil here is loam, no sand. It is so dry that any traffic makes a powder as fine as talcum. When it gets wet it is as slick as ice, making the roads extremely hazardous. We will take dry over wet.

As you may already know the Battalion lost its first soldier on this deployment, no amount of training could have prepared us for the event. In the quiet we think about it, it has made our respect and gratitude for you grow, it is strange how growth occurs. We think how the loss of one Soldier has changed us; we can not imagine what changes it brought to you.

This letter is written for SSG Frank Tia'i; it is what it is, remembrances and emotions as the events unfolded.

We have always understood our responsibilities as a leadership team and had prepared to do our duty in the event we lost a Soldier. It came on 17 July.

The day started with me linking up with a platoon from Co C in the Battalion Motor Pool, and preparing for a route clearance mission. The last stop the patrol makes before leaving the base is at the tactical operations center for an update of the current situation. When we arrived we were informed that a Co C patrol was hit as they were heading back to the base, it was the patrol that we were replacing. Not much was known but it was clear that a Soldier was severely injured. We were ordered to the site to assist, but when we arrived the Soldiers had the situation under control, and we continued our mission. Throughout the mission you could sense the uneasiness. Our scheduled return was at 1700, but we were called in early, in our hearts we knew why.

When we arrived we were met by the Battalion Commander, he informed us of Frank's passing. Our patrol was cut short in order for us to be present at the airfield for the departure of our Soldier on his last journey home. It is called the "Patriot Detail" it ensures that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines line the route as the remains are carried to the entrance of the aircraft, where a small ceremony is held.

The HHC First Sergeant had carried out his responsibilities to the letter. He had posted the Honor Guard and Battalion Colors and was assisting the C Company First Sergeant with the rehearsal of the pall bearers when we arrived.

For Frank a large crowd had gathered, in total there had to be at least 300 people. The NCO in charge remarked that he had never seen so many Soldiers and Airmen at a Patriot Ceremony. We work closely with the Air Force and see each other as one team; they were there to support the Battalion. It is amazing to see the camaraderie that [exists] between the services for our fallen heroes. We formed and marched a slow, silent march to the aircraft where the Battalion Chaplain and the 29th Brigade Commander awaited. We formed into lines on each side of the rear ramp, 5 deep on each side in the hot sun to honor our Soldier. The Command of Present Arms was given as the bearers carried our Soldier onto the plane. We then entered the plane to hear from the Chaplain. His words, as always, were strong and comforting, he is one of our most powerful weapons in the fight. After a few brief moments the plane was ready to depart and the Soldiers slowly left the tarmac.

It is not intended to march off the tarmac; soldiers leave in small groups, heading back to deal with grief as they deal with the fight in small groups, 3 or 4 supporting each other. I remember looking at the colors as they caught the wind, it reminded me that the Battalion endures, for the first time during this campaign I felt old.

For the leadership team there would be little or no sleep for the next 3 days. The next ceremony, the memorial service, is conducted to allow all the soldiers to grieve and help them find closure. The leadership team was determined to honor Frank with a ceremony that only the 100th can provide.

Being primarily Islanders we stick out on this base like a sore thumb and when you are the only Infantry Unit on a base this size you have those that love you and those that don't. We knew that some of the "don'ts" would be in attendance by protocol; we knew that they would understand the powerful pride of the Battalion after the ceremony.

The ceremony was held in the base theater, it is large with a full stage and a balcony. The acoustics are perfect; you can hear a whisper from the back row. The preparation for it was a true team effort; the Command Sergeants Major from the 29th Brigade and the 29th Support Battalion set the flags and stage, leaving us free to rehearse. On the day of the ceremony we were presented with potted plants grown by the 29th Support Battalion Commander, they added to the beauty of the ceremony. On the center stage were the boots, rifle, helmet, the United State Flag and a picture of Frank. The podium was draped with a lava lava [an article of Samoan clothing] from Co C.

The theater filled to capacity with an overflow crowd watching from the lobby on the day of the memorial. It began with the Battalion Soldiers singing songs taught to us by the Soldiers of B and C Companies during mobilization, the men's voices were strong but restrained, we knew why. After the announcement was given that we would begin in 5 minutes, the Battalion Bagpiper, Sgt. "Doc" Reed, played "Gary Owen", "Amazing Grace" and "Go for Broke". From my seat on the stage, I saw the hair on the back of our men stand up in unison, mine included, as our song filled the air. We began with the invocation, followed by [eulogies] from the Commander, Platoon Leader, PSG, and a close friend. Then the Battalion Chaplain spoke, more powerful than ever before. We sang a hymn in Samoan and had a slide show full of pictures of Frank.

Some things stay with you. the final [roll] call is as clear now as it was 3 weeks ago. It was conducted by the Co C First Sergeant, as he called for Frank the 3rd time the rifle team fired followed by Taps. The bugle players were also provided by the 29th Support Battalion, their playing mimicing a faint echo.

After the Benediction we had everyone stand for the singing of "Remember Pearl Harbor" and "Go for Broke", this was what the men were holding their voices back for, their voices thundered, in our hearts we hoped that we were heard by Frank. This was the first time that the Soldiers have sung the Battalion Songs in Theater and it was overpowering to all that witnessed it. In front of me, I watched as a Senior Officer broke into tears and looked to the heavens. He had no knowledge of the 100th, he did not know Frank, he knew that the Nation had lost a Warrior, and he had felt the Spirit of the Battalion.

After the song we formed a line to pay our respects and to thank those who came. We were there for an hour and a half, everyone stopped to shake hands and offer their sympathies and condolences. As the Soldiers saluted Frank for the last time, many placed a token on the stand where the boots and rifle rested. The items will be given to his family.

To this day we get stopped around the base by Soldiers and Airmen who were there, they struggle as they try to find words to express their feelings, we think that they want to give a compliment, but they are not sure if it is appropriate; we help them by saying, "We understand."

Throught the entire time, our Soldiers eagerly went to meet the enemy, with a redoubled commitment to the campaign. They are proud; they will never quit; they will never leave a fallen comrade; and they will never accept defeat. They represent the best of our Islands and Nation, and I thank God that they serve in the greatest Infantry Battalion in the Army.

I close all my letters the same way. Each day I am here, it reinforces my belief that I am from the Greatest Nation on the face of the earth because of our people. May God bless you and the United States.

"Remember Pearl Harbor"

Harold P. Estabrooks, SGM;
CSM, 100th BN - 442D Infantry

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