“She joined the military to help fight for our nation and we are all very proud of her for doing that. She's very young and she's supposed to turn only 24 years old this Saturday,” a teary-eyed Frances Mafnas said, moments after her niece and goddaughter, U.S. Army Specialist Joselyn Tara Mafnas Sablan, was laid to rest at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery in Marpi yesterday afternoon.
Sablan, the eldest of five children, passed away in her barracks room in Fort Hood, Texas on Sept. 20. She was 23.
As of yesterday, the circumstances surrounding her passing are still under investigation.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Erica Mafnas, 31, said she last spoke to her cousin, Sablan, on the phone over a month ago and that she will miss her “laughs and smiles.”
“Before coming here, I spoke to her captain last week and he described her as a 'silent giant.' She's quiet but she does her job very well and accurate. The captain said if he has 200 Sablans then his job would be much easier. The captain said she's a great soldier. For me she's the sweetest person you could ever meet,” the U.S. Coast Guard petty officer 1st class said.
Remy Mafnas, another aunt of the late U.S. Army specialist, said her niece had three faces-smiling, giggling, and funny faces. She said her former classmates described her niece as someone “who turns negative into a positive” and a “peacemaker.”
“She's a sweet person, a sweet girl. She's very loved because of her sweetness and kind heart,” the aunt added.
A large crowd attended Sablan's funeral Mass at Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa and her interment at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery in Marpi yesterday.
On Friday, her family, relatives and friends held a candlelight vigil to welcome the arrival of her remains to Saipan around 1am.
Sablan served in Iraq in 2010, her family said. Sablan's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Army Service Ribbon, according to a statement from Fort Hood, Texas.
She entered active-duty service in October 2009 as an automated logistical specialist. She was assigned to the 565th Quartermasters Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Fort Hood, since February 2012.
On Monday, another CNMI son was buried at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi.
Former U.S. Army sergeant, Robert Jason Santos Deleon Guerrero, passed away on Sept. 23 in Tennessee. Before he died, he donated seven of his organs.
Deleon Guerrero's sister, Lani Deleon Guerrero, said yesterday that contrary to other family members' earlier statements, her brother was a sergeant when he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, not a specialist. She also said her brother suffered from AVM or arteriovenous malformation, and not aneurism, as the family earlier said.
He received an Afghanistan campaign medal with two campaign stars. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in May this year.
Deleon Guerrero and Sablan's deaths bring to 19 the number of CNMI sons and daughters serving in the U.S. military who have lost their lives since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.