Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the CNMI joins Guam in mourning the death of two Guam soldiers in Afghanistan last week, just a few weeks after some 600 Guardsmen from the Marianas were deployed to that country in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo declared Guam in a state of mourning after confirming Saturday evening the passing of Sgt. Eugene M. Aguon of Mangilao and Spc. Dwayne W. Flores of Sinajana.
Flores and Aguon, both 23, were killed Thursday in Kabul, Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber hit the convoy they were part of.
The explosion claimed 15 lives, six of them Americans, including Flores and Aguon. The other four Americans killed were civilian contractors.
There’s no word yet whether any of the newly deployed soldiers from the CNMI were also hurt in the attack.
“We have not received any word that any of our troops, members from Saipan (CNMI), have been casualty. We feel for the family of those who died in this particular incident,” Inos told Saipan Tribune at the Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival Saturday night.
Senate floor leader Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan), who served in Iraq in October 2004 to January 2006, said yesterday his prayers go out to the families of the soldiers killed in action.
“Sgt. Aguon and Spc. Flores’ ultimate sacrifice defending our country and providing freedom for the people of Afghanistan will never be forgotten,” he said.
Yumul served with two soldiers from the CNMI who were killed on Oct. 31, 2005, during a patrol mission in Balad, Iraq.
The Guam governor, in a statement, asked for the prayers of every Guamanian for Aguon and Flores’ families and friends.
“There are no words to describe the overwhelming grief of our island on this tragic day. May the Lord be with their parents and loved ones to give them strength,” Calvo said.
Aguon and Flores were part of a group of about 600 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment who left Guam in early March for training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi before deploying to Afghanistan in April.
Of the estimated 600 soldiers, 16 are from the CNMI. The deployment lasts about a year.
Capt. Ken Ola of the Guam Guard said yesterday the “Guam Guard or anyone in the military cannot comment on the incident or anything related to it until the Office of the Secretary of Defense issues an official release about the incident.”
Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, in a statement, said she is “deeply saddened” by the loss of Aguon and Flores.
“These brave men made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and for our entire nation while serving in Afghanistan. We will be forever grateful for their service. My heart goes out to their family and friends, and I ask that our island community surround them with prayers and sympathy during this difficult time. This is a very sad day for our island,” she said.
On April 12, dozens of family members of the 16 soldiers from the CNMI, along with the governor and other officials and community members, gathered for an evening of prayer and support for their loved ones about to go to Afghanistan.
They are part of the largest deployment of troops for the Guam Army National Guard since its inception in 1981.