CNMI remembers its fallen heroes


The Commonwealth community paid tribute to its fallen patriots in a simple yet solemn Memorial Day ceremony at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery yesterday.

Wreaths, flowers, and prayers were offered by families, friends, brothers, and sisters in front of the grave markers of the fallen patriots, as their names were called one by one.

The ceremony culminated in a short march and the presentation of a ceremonial wreath inscribed with the words “In valor there is love,” followed by a 21-gun salute.

Family members become emotional as they lay flowers and offer silent prayers on the grave of a fallen loved one during the Memorial Day ceremony at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery on Monday. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

Family members become emotional as they lay flowers and offer silent prayers on the grave of a fallen loved one during the Memorial Day ceremony at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery on Monday. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

A solitary trumpet player played the 24 notes of “Taps” as soldiers saluted their fallen comrades.

“I am honored to be here with the island leaders, fellow service members, and our families to remember the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation,” said Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, Commander, Joint Region Marianas and U.S. Pacific Command’s Defense Representative for the CNMI, in her keynote speech.

“If not for our fallen airmen, coast guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines, we would not be here today. We would not know what freedom is. Though the cemetery is young, having just been constructed during our most recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it already holds so many loved ones who have served our country,” she said.

Bolivar gave tribute to Chamorro and Carolinian scouts who assisted the American soldiers who came to Saipan during World War II, as well as soldiers killed in Iraq.

“Men like Gregorio Camacho Cabrera, the first service member buried at this cemetery. He assisted in convincing locals to leave their hiding places in the caves of Mt. Tapochau, Kagman, and Marpi. Cristino Sablan Dela Cruz, who provided Marines with the locations of critical supplies hidden by the Japanese, and who was later awarded a Purple Heart with Gold Star Medal in 2000, and Santiago Babauta, who traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands on an American battleship to assist in the removal of the remaining Japanese soldiers. He later returned to Saipan to assist in locating and capturing Japanese snipers.”

Bolivar also mentioned younger service members who gave their life for their country.

“Wilgene Lieto, an Army staff sergeant, who was also a former reservist and police officer from Gualo Rai, was part of the ‘Go for Broke’ battalion made up of soldiers from Guam, the CNMI, American Samoa, and Hawaii. He was killed in Balad, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations. When he died in Oct. 31, 2005, he was only 28.”

“Then there’s Robert Jason Deleon Guerrero, a U.S. Army sergeant. He had been honorably discharged from the service, but he carried the selfless spirit over into his civilian life. When he died in 2012, he donated seven of his organs—including his heart, liver and pancreas—so that others may live.”

“As we remember today those we have lost, those who have valiantly served, and those who continue the fight, let us give them thanks for the lives we lead and for the lives of our generations,” Bolivar said.

For Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Memorial Day is a day to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of fallen heroes for freedom and peace.

“On these hallowed grounds, we celebrate and solemnly reaffirm, from year to year, our nation’s endearing faith that life and liberty are profound principles which define our country, and who we are.”

In his speech, Inos added that “In order to preserve our principles of life and liberty, we have fought wars on our own soils and abroad, from the shores of Normandy, the shores of Saipan, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.”

In a statement, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said, “As we honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we should also remember to show our gratitude for those who are still fighting for us, and to make sure our nation’s veterans are not forgotten when they return home.”


A woman, who declined to be named, said she goes to the Monday ceremony each year to visit the grave of a relative at the Veteran’s Cemetery.

Although the woman, who is in her 60s, did not name the fallen soldier, she did say that her youngest son, who is now in his 20s, will be joining the U.S. Navy “very soon.”

“I have three children and my youngest chose to join the service. I’ve been living on Saipan for 31 years now and I have seen many of our young men and women go to serve the military,” she said.

Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), who was the master of ceremonies, said Memorial Day remains very important to remember the sacrifices of the CNMI’s fallen heroes.

“It reminds us, that in the Commonwealth, we are as patriotic as mainland America, and we wear that on our sleeves very proudly,” Demapan, himself a former service member, said in an interview.

Demapan said on a per capita basis, the CNMI continues to deploy the highest number of enlisted men and women in the military.

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at

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