SAIPAN LOSES FIRST SOLDIER TO IRAQ CONFLICT

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 9) – A 31-year-old U.S. Army sergeant from Saipan, whose parents live on Guam, was killed in Iraq April 4 when his unit was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

He died less than a month after arriving in Iraq.

Yihjyh "Eddie" Lang Chen moved from Taiwan to Saipan as a teenager, where his mother opened a gas station, his parents said yesterday.

He graduated from high school on Saipan and worked as a police officer there for more than five years before joining the Army in January 2000.

Eddie Chen married on Saipan, but later divorced. He does not have any children, his mother said.

"Who killed my son?" Dededo resident Yu Mei Chen, 71, asked yesterday afternoon, two days after a military representative met her at her front door to tell her that her son was dead. His parents, who speak in broken English, said they know little about what happened.

Eddie Chen, who was with the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, was one of eight soldiers killed during an attack in Baghdad, said Capt. John Guerrero, public information officer for the Guam Army National Guard.

The Associated Press reported that eight U.S. soldiers were killed that day during a riot in Sadr City, which is Baghdad's largest Shiite neighborhood.

Black-garbed Shiite militiamen fired from rooftops and from behind buildings, killing the troops, according to the Associated Press.

Eddie Chen was an infantryman on a Bradley fighting vehicle, according to U.S. military locator information on the Internet.

Eddie Chen was not the first in his family to serve in Iraq.

His younger brother, who also is a sergeant in the U.S. Army, served in Iraq for six months last year, said their father, 71-year-old Cheng Pin Chen. The family has two other sons and a daughter.

Yu Mei Chen said her son, Eddie, joined the military, "because the Army say they give him school."

He earned his bachelor's degree, she said, and planned to go to law school after leaving the military this year.

She said she cannot understand why her son still was in the Army when his enlistment was supposed to end this past January. She is angry about it.

Eddie Chen was sent to Iraq March 11 and was to be there a year.

"If the government no lying, my son no dying," she said.

The Chens are struggling financially, growing and selling eggplants and hot peppers to sell to supermarkets. Their apartment is sparsely furnished, with a few chairs and tables they picked up second-hand.

Yu Mei Chen said she lost her gas station and most of her possessions in Saipan and she and her husband moved to Guam about 10 years ago.

Times were worse, but Eddie helped them get green cards so they could work, his mother said.

"Eddie said, 'I'll come back. I'll help you. I'll make business for you,'" his mother said while crying. "I want my son to come. My son not come."

Eddie Chen is scheduled to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on April 23. His parents are scheduled to leave Guam April 19 for the burial.

"I want to see his face," his mother said.

April 9, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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