The CNMI joins the rest of the nation today in honoring those who sacrificed their lives to protect the country through military service, with the Office of the Governor and the Office of Veterans Affairs holding a CNMI Memorial Day event at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi this morning.
While Memorial Day is officially a one-day commemoration, the memories of those lost lives on past Monday.
Gina Tomokane remembers her father, Antonio Cepeda Tomokane, who served in the U.S. Army for 21 years and was a Vietnam War veteran. She describes him as a great father and a great man—honorable, humble, kind, and the type of man “to give his last dollars to anyone that would ask.”
“It’s not an easy job to leave your family, go to war, and come back, yet they still do that to honor and protect their country,” said Tomokane.
Brad Ruszala, District VI commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pacific Areas, remembers his friend, Charles Joseph Fishpaw from West Virginia, with whom he went through Basic Training and served alongside in many parts of the world. Ruszala and Fishpaw volunteered to join the 9th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Manchus,” and served together in missions in Southwest Asia; Mogadishu, Somalia; and Cuba as part of different units.
“On Memorial Day, I take time to think of the people I served with who are no longer with us. The closest person I lost while serving was Charles Joseph Fishpaw from West Virginia. …I found out he passed after we returned from back-to-back deployments. He became a statistic as one of the 22 soldiers who take their lives every day. I honor his commitment to our nation, to his family, and his friends,” said Ruszala.
It has been 26 years since Fishpaw’s passing, and Ruszala still feels the sorrow of his loss. He cherishes Fishpaw’s memory as a fellow soldier and a friend.