Fallen Soldier's father visits 3-21st, celebrates son
May 6, 2010
- Father honors fallen son
- 3-21 Infantry
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Dates matter. Remembering significant dates is important to many people, but for Allen Hoe, father of 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, January 22, 2005 is more than a day he will never forget; it is a day that changed his life forever.
Nainoa Hoe served with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division when it was located at Fort Lewis, Wash. He deployed with the 3-21st Gimlets to Iraq and in January 2005 he was killed by a sniper.
While Allen Hoe never lost contact with the Soldiers and leaders of 3-21st after his son's death, he had not visited the Gimlets since their return from Iraq in 2005; not until he came to Fort Wainwright April 30 to share and celebrate his son's legacy.
This visit was not random. He came to Fort Wainwright with a purpose: to witness his son's friend take command of B Company, 3-21st. Capt. Mike Tiongco, incoming B/3-21st commander, met Nainoa Hoe while serving in the Army Reserve and later in ROTC in Hawaii and specifically requested to serve in the Gimlet battalion to honor his friend's memory and service.
"For me and what I know Nainoa believed, it's about the Soldiers," Tiongco said. "I know he gave everything he could to those guys. I wanted to honor him by going to the battalion that I know he served and fought and died with and give everything I could. If I'm even in some small way able to help these guys or impact them like he did for me, that I think is as much a fitting tribute to the legacy he started here that I could ever do."
Allen Hoe and Tiongco paid tribute to Nainoa Hoe together in their own way after the ceremony. But even during the ceremony, with a full audience and formation of company Soldiers, it seemed to them that there were only three men in the room - Tiongco, Allen and Nainoa Hoe.
"I am always mindful of Nainoa," Tiongco said. "He deserves that. It's a conscious decision to come in here every day and try to have the best attitude I can and give 110 percent even though some days it may be hard to give 110 percent. But I know that's what he would have done, too."
Allen Hoe not only witnessed the ceremony, he was instrumental in Tiongco becoming a Gimlet. The two stayed in touch over the years and while Tiongco attended the Captain's Career Course at Fort Benning, Ga., he called "Uncle Allen," as he is affectionately known to Nainoa Hoe's friends, with the news that he was going to 1-25th SBCT. Tiongco then asked for his help in getting to 3-21st.
Allen Hoe said that he did not have to think twice about this request. "It would be just an incredible story if this young captain, Mike Tiongco, who had this very special connection with my son, would be able to serve with the same battalion he served with," he said.
Allen Hoe serves on many veterans' advisory committees and boards and is also a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army. These roles have allowed him to meet and become friends with a wide variety of leaders and Soldiers throughout the Army and even sent him to Iraq for Thanksgiving in 2008 where he met the previous 1-25th SBCT command team.
Nainoa Hoe's story is compelling enough on its own, but Allen Hoe said that the added component of Tiongco's desire to serve in his battalion was more than enough to convince leaders like Col. Todd Wood, 1-25th SBCT commander, that this was the right thing to do.
"I sent Col. Wood an e-mail and within a very short period of time I got this incredible e-mail from him saying that he knew all the stories of my son and his service and he said, 'I just want to let you know that you will always be a part of our family and yes, we will make this happen,'" Allen Hoe said.
This is just the kind of project Allen Hoe enjoys. "It's amazing how I have been able to serve my son by serving the kids who were special to him," he said.
He wanted more than to attend the change of command ceremony. He wanted to talk to the Soldiers.
Just as it was for his son, for Allen Hoe, it's all about the Soldiers. He recounted numerous stories of Soldiers' bravery, triumph in the face of adversity and a warrior spirit that he celebrates.
"Absolutely incredible young men these guys are," he said. "That's why I cannot do enough to make sure the world appreciates their service, or more so, that our neighbors appreciate their service."
He specifically wanted to tell current 3-21st Soldiers about their heritage and inspire them to take pride in their battalion's heritage and those who have fought and died as Gimlets.
"To all the warriors present today, be proud of your legacy and heritage as Gimlets," Allen Hoe said to 3-21st Soldiers gathered to meet him. "Your lineage is a long and storied one forged in those many battles throughout Asia and the Pacific, whose names are forever engraved in our nation's history. Please accept my deepest gratitude to each of you, especially to your families, for their sacrifice and your many years of dedicated service to our country."
Legacy, history and tradition are important to Allen Hoe and his family. He has researched his own Army lineage, as well as that of Nainoa Hoe and his other son, Staff Sgt. Nakoa Hoe, extensively and made strong parallels between Nainoa Hoe's service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and his own in Vietnam.
"Hopefully, the message I left them today is that 3-21st has an absolutely incredible legacy. If they have at any time any doubts about the legacy of this battalion, just do a Google search. There are just dozens of books of personal experiences from and about the Gimlets from Korea and Vietnam that are out there."
Finding parallels and connections between the two eras has not only proven fascinating to him, but also closed the door on any doubts he might have had about his son's death.
"There's nothing anyone could have ever done that could have changed what happened," he said. "The fact that he was even there was so unique." Recounting the details of that day, Allen Hoe said he also charts his son's life by the lunar cycle. His son's middle name, Kealiihokuhelelani, means "the chiefly moon that travels the heavens."
"Nainoa was born on a full moon. The day he was killed was a full moon. The things that have been significant throughout his life have all kind of blended with the full moon," he explained. "Mike is taking command of a company in (Nainoa's) battalion on a full moon. So I said, 'Mike, you know, we had nothing to do with this.'"
Regardless of what led his son to the neighborhood of al-Whada, Mosul, Iraq that January afternoon, Allen Hoe is determined to carry his son's legacy and share his life with as many people as possible. "I need to be available to tell this story because people need to hear it," he said.
While he has taken this story to civilian audiences and groups, his heart is for Soldiers and military leaders. Some might question how he is able to stay so involved with a community that provides constant reminders of his son's death.
"Every day is a gift. I don't like when people use the phrase, 'his sacrifice for us.' It was never a sacrifice. He absolutely loved serving. He absolutely loved doing what he was doing. So I don't view his death as a sacrifice. It would be kind of futile if it was a sacrifice. He was totally committed to doing what his country asked him to do."
Allen Hoe fulfilled his mission at Fort Wainwright last week. He shared his story and shook the hands and hugged the necks of many Soldiers. He talked with leaders about future opportunities to speak to Soldiers here and he celebrated a new chapter in the history of 3-21st and the enduring legacy of his son who "gave his last full measure of devotion for his beloved country and homeland."
"How can we be bitter' Yeah, it's sad. We're very sad," he said. "I feel cheated, but he never felt cheated. He got to live his dream. He absolutely got to live his dream."