By HAIDEE V. EUGENIO and CLARISSA V. DAVID
A female U.S. Army specialist from the CNMI passed away in Texas, while a CNMI son also serving in the Army is fighting for his life in Tennessee, their relatives separately told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
U.S. Army Specialist Joselyn Tara Mafnas Sablan, 23, passed away on Thursday in Fort Hood, Texas where she was stationed but the Army has yet to complete its investigation on the cause of death, her family said.
CNMI Military & Veterans Affairs Office director Ben Camacho also confirmed Sablan's death, but said its cause is “privileged” information between the U.S. Army and Sablan's family, which has been notified about her passing.
Sablan, who served in Iraq in 2010, was supposed to turn 24 on Oct. 13, her family said.
“Everyone was in shock when we heard the news on Friday (Saipan) time. It's very sad news. Up to now, we're still in shock. The whole family is grieving,” her aunt, Frances Mafnas, told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Camacho said the family is still grieving about the passing of Sablan and is not yet ready to talk given the difficulty of the situation. “I just want to extend my most sincere condolences to the family for their loss,” he added.
Camacho said his office would assist the Sablan family in every way possible and that Sablan would be buried at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi.
Sablan's death brings to 18 the number of CNMI sons and daughters serving in the U.S. military that lost their lives since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
'Fighting for life'
U.S. Army Specialist Robert Santos Deleon Guerrero, meanwhile, is fighting for his life at an Army hospital in Tennessee, where he was transported over the weekend from Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he is stationed, his uncle, Board of Education member Herman T. Guerrero, said yesterday.
Herman Guerrero said his nephew is in life support system because of aneurism and his parents on Saipan flew to Tennessee on Sunday to be by his side.
“We don't have much information at this time. But we ask people to include him in your prayers,” Guerrero said, adding that there is nightly rosary being held for his nephew.
The Army specialist is the son of former representative Florencio Deleon Guerrero and Lucy Santos Deleon Guerrero.
Frances Mafnas said the family of the late Army Specialist Joselyn Tara Mafnas Sablan is holding nightly rosary at Santa Soledad Church in Kagman.
“She will be buried here on Saipan. We are just waiting for the Army to tell us when the body will be flown here,” the aunt said.
The aunt said her niece joined the Army sometime in 2009.
“She is the oldest among five children. She has one sister and three brothers aged 14 to 22,” Mafnas said.
Mafnas said her niece, whom she last saw about a year ago, “is a very family-oriented person.”
“They are rich in love. The family is very close to each other. That's why it's so shocking for us to hear the news of her passing. We want people's support and respect at this time,” Mafnas added.
Press secretary Angel A. Demapan, when asked for comment, said the administration learned yesterday about Sablan's death and that a Casualty Assistant Officer arrived last night to assist the family of the late soldier.
“No matter the circumstance, it is always a truly sad day for the Commonwealth to lose a brave daughter or son who has chosen to defend the principles of freedom and liberty for all,” said Demapan.
“Gov. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Inos convey their deepest condolences to the bereaved family and ask the people of the Commonwealth to keep the late Joslyn and her family in thoughts and prayers,” he added.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) said he is “always filled with sadness whenever I am informed of a casualty of a member of our armed services, and in particular when that someone is from the Northern Mariana Islands. I can only imagine the overwhelming grief of a family for the loss of a loved one.”
“Our Northern Mariana Islands now has 18 fallen heroes in this war on terror and we shall continue to keep them all and their families in our prayers for they have suffered a sacrifice so costly in the defense of our nation and of our freedom. My wife Andrea and I extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Mafnas and Sablan families for the loss of their daughter,” the delegate said.
He said one of his highest privileges as a Member of Congress is to request that a U.S. flag be flown on the Capitol in honor of a fallen soldier, Marine, sailor, airman or coast guard man.
“Having the flag of our nation flown on the Capitol on their behalf is the least we can do for their loss. And my request, 18 so far, is always followed by a prayer that it will be the last one I make,” the delegate said.
He also wishes that the Army specialist currently in Tennessee will be able to survive his ordeal.
The CNMI has 18 sons and daughters in the U.S. military that passed away since 2004: Army Sgt. Yihgyh “Eddie” L. Chen (April 4, 2004), Army SSgt. Wilgene Lieto (Oct. 31, 2005), Army Spc. Derence W. Jack (Oct. 31, 2005), Army Sgt. Jesse J. Castro (Dec. 6, 2006), Marine LCpl Adam Q. Emul (Jan. 29, 2007), Army SPC Leeroy A. Camacho (Feb. 9, 2007), Army PFC John D. Flores (May 3, 2007), Army PFC Victor M. Fontanilla (May 17, 2007), Army Spc. Joe Junior G. Charfauros (June 20, 2007), Navy Seaman Anamarie San Nicolas Camacho (Oct. 22, 2007), Army Sgt. Brian S. Leon Guerrero (July 10, 2008), Army SSgt. Julian F. Manglona (Oct. 9, 2008), and Air Force SrA Audra P.M. Winkfield (June 19, 2009), Marine Cpl. Dave Michael Maliksi Santos (2010), Sgt. George Joseph Affatica Sablan (Feb. 10, 2012), U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Ramon T. Kaipat (April 11, 2012), U.S. Army Specialist Hanson Mendiola (July 22, 2012), and U.S. Army Specialist Joselyn Tara Mafnas Sablan (Sept. 20, 2012).