Sgt. Daniel Tsue—April 2009 Shipment Honoree
In Remembrance: Locals killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2005Source: The Voice Kaleo by Hannah Miyamoto
Tsue was killed by an IED in Iraq on Nov. 1, 2005. He graduated from Kahuku High School in 1996. He was a specialist in disarming bombs; he successfully disabled 63 IEDs. His aunt, Joan Murata, remembered that as a child, he solved math equations faster than they could be written out.
He attended UH Hilo for one semester before he joined the Marines. While in Iraq, he told his parents he would stay an extra six months because he was single to “save some married guy from having to leave his family.” He was buried in Punchbowl National Cemetery. He was 27 years old.
Marine kept cool amid daily dangerSource: William Cole The Honolulu Advertiser
“As soon as we get out (of the vehicle), as soon as he steps out, bam! — an IED (improvised explosive device) goes off I want to say 30, 40 feet away,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Soto, 34, Tsue’s team leader.
The bomb blast left a “good crater in the road,” but none of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion Marines out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., was hurt.
“So he (Tsue) looked at me, and I looked at him,” Soto said. “He just shook it off like nothing and went right back to work.”
Roadside bombs defined Tsue’s two-month tour of duty in Iraq, west of Baghdad in the restive Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi.
The 27-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician worked daily to identify and defuse IEDs, primarily using robotic devices. Soto estimated that his team, Tsue included, neutralized more than 30. On Nov. 1, a secondary roadside bomb killed Tsue as he worked on another nearby.
Tsue, a 1996 Kahuku High School graduate, is the second Marine and seventh service member to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. More than 73 service members with Hawai’i ties have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
October was the fourth deadliest month of the war, with at least 95 U.S. service members killed. Twenty have died this month from roadside bombs.
Yesterday, those statistics were measured in personal loss and awful finality for family and friends as a small bronze-colored box containing Tsue’s ashes and adorned with the Marine Corps eagle, globe and anchor logo was placed in the columbarium at Punchbowl.
Tsue’s father, Richard, and his wife, Jennie; mother, Deborah Takemoto; brother and sister Alexander and Joy Takemoto; and grandmother Marian Tsue sat stiffly on folding chairs in a tree-shaded gazebo as white-gloved Marines unfurled an American flag and re-folded it for presentation, along with a duplicate flag, to Tsue’s parents.
Richard Tsue clasped the small box with his son’s Purple Heart in both hands as taps was bugled and seven Marines fired a 21-gun salute. The orders for Tsue’s posthumous promotion to staff sergeant were read, and Chaplain Daniel Whitaker, a Navy lieutenant, recited taps: “Day is done, gone the sun; From the lake, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”
Several dozen family members and friends attended Tsue’s burial. The Marine Corps had said the family did not wish to be contacted by the media during its time of grief.
Branden Nishikawa, 28, came in from Maui and was one of a group of friends who had known Tsue since grade school.
“We kept in touch with him all the way through,” Nishikawa said.
Tsue sent an e-mail in October “to let me know that everything was OK and he was safe and he was looking forward to coming back to our 10-year reunion next year for our group of friends,” Nishikawa said.
Nishikawa said Tsue had told him he had about six “close encounters” in Iraq, including a near miss when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at him.
“Right now, I don’t know how to feel. I never experienced anything like this before,” Nishikawa said.
Although Nishikawa has an older brother who served in Iraq in the Air Force, “I never thought that something like this would happen to anybody in our circle of friends. Just the reality of the danger (in Iraq) kinda really kicked in,” Nishikawa said.
Marc Togashi, also from that circle of friends, said Tsue didn’t tell the group he was in Iraq until he was already there. He had enlisted in 1998, and served as an embassy guard in places like Bahrain and Tokyo.
When Tsue told his friends of his plans to enlist, Togashi said, “We were all thinking, ‘What in the world are you doing?’ ”
Togashi remembered Tsue as more of a rascal in his youth in the Moanalua Valley than Marine candidate.
“But it turns out it’s something that he’s passionate about,” Togashi said. “Whatever mission and cause he was on, anything to support the country. It sounds cliche, but it was the … truth with him.”
Soto recalled Tsue’s commitment amid the daily danger.
“We were finding large IEDs, as well as the smaller ones that were just being thrown out hastily,” he said, adding, “the situation in Ramadi is pretty bad. It is an insurgent hotbed. My opinion, and I hate to say this, but they could lay IEDs as they wish.”
Tsue was “very nonchalant” about the roadside bombs, Soto said, noting that his composure was the “right attitude for the job.”
“It was just another day for him, another day at work,” Soto said. “That’s it. (Stuff) blowing up around him — he didn’t care.”
Soto was shot in the upper chest and forearm 10 days before Tsue was killed.
“Tsue was the kind of guy who did the right thing because it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Bottom line: He didn’t care if anybody was watching … he was a good man.”
Friends learn Marine saved hundreds
The staff sergeant disarmed explosives before being killed by one in IraqSource: Diana Leone
DURING his short time in Iraq, Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel A. Tsue’s work saved the lives of hundreds of people, friends and family heard at his funeral yesterday.
As a member of the elite Marine Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, Tsue’s job was to disarm explosives or get them away from their intended targets.
Tsue handled 63 ordnance disposals in Iraq, and “probably saved over 200 Marines and soldiers’ lives over there, just by his actions alone,” said Tsue’s company commander, Capt. Lawrence Goshen.
“He did his duty and he did it extremely well,” Goshen said of the 27-year-old Moanalua Valley native and 1996 Kahuku High School graduate. “He was great at what he did. He will ever be in his Marines’ hearts and minds until the day we die.”
Tsue, who was serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton, Calif., was killed by a homemade bomb on Nov. 1 near Ar Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad.
His death brought the total to 72 people with island ties who have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003.
UNTIL RECENTLY, childhood friends Marc Togashi and Branden Nishikawa thought that Tsue was working in the U.S. Embassy in Japan, they said yesterday after the service at Borthwick Mortuary.
“About a month ago, he called me out of the blue and said he was stationed in a dangerous area of Iraq,” Nishikawa said. “I said, ‘Keep yourself safe. Don’t take any chances. Don’t be a hero.'”
Togashi and Nishikawa said they wouldn’t have guessed back in elementary and intermediate school that Tsue would grow up to be a Marine. But they agreed that he had always been smart.
“Very smart,” said Nishikawa.
“He was always trying to learn something,” Togashi said.
Joan Murata, Tsue’s aunt, recalled in her eulogy that, “At an early age, he delighted his grandfather by solving math equations in his head quicker than it could be written out.”
‘He will ever be in his Marines’ hearts and minds until the day we die’
After Tsue “aced” his college entrance exam, Murata said, the Marine Corps recruited him, and after just one semester at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, he accepted.
She read from a recent e-mail from her nephew in which he wrote: “I’m planning on doing a consecutive tour out here. So, I’ll be here for another year or so. I figure since I’m single, I may as well stay out here and save some married guy from having to leave his family for six months.”
That’s the kind of person Tsue was, agreed Gunnery Sgt. Jose Soto, Tsue’s team leader in Iraq. “He was genuinely a good person, one of those people who did the right thing.”
While Tsue “had a relaxed, hair-down attitude about things,” he was superb at his job. One of Tsue’s habits after a mission was to “take off his boots and put on his flip-flops (slippers),” Soto said in an interview. “He always brought a piece of Hawaii with him.”
SOTO GOT chuckles from funeral attendees when he told them that in his off hours, Tsue was on a mission to improve his fellow Marines’ poker game.
“He never took our money,” Soto said later. “That would be like taking candy from a baby.”
Tsue’s half-sister, Joy Takemoto, was choked with emotion as she described how grateful she was to have visited with him in June after not having seen him for 6 1/2 years.
“What little time we had was perfect. He was just such an awesome brother,” she said.
As a Marine, Tsue served his fellow man, and in so doing served God as well, Marine Chaplain Daniel Whitaker said.
Tsue was awarded a Purple Heart and promoted posthumously from sergeant to staff sergeant.
Other survivors include his father, Richard; mother Deborah Takemoto; half-brother Alexander Takemoto; and grandmother Marian Tsue.
His ashes will be inurned at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Daniel during the month of April 2009 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in the Middle East. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Daniel’s family and friends today and in the years to come.