By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampSeptember 30, 2010
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Sept. 30, 2010) - The world may remember Master Sgt. Wilberto Sabalu Jr. for his courage and selfless sacrifice, but his friends remember his smile, his positive attitude and his dedication to helping Soldiers.
Sabalu was killed by small arms fire in Afghanistan with Col. James Harrison May 6, 2007. The two Soldiers were serving as mentors and experts in detention for the Afghan National Army. Sabalu, who had served as a corrections specialist at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, was assigned to the U.S. Military Police School and his family was living at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Sabalu is survived by his wife, Amy Sabalu, and two children, Joshua and Nadia, now 13 and 15. Sabalu's sister Elizabeth accepted a ceremonial road sign on the family's behalf.
Sabalu's friends and family and members of the 15th Military Police Brigade joined Fort Leavenworth officials in naming a road in his honor Sept. 28. The road provides access to the new Joint Regional Correctional Facility.
Col. Wayne A. Green, garrison commander, said the road is not far from one dedicated in honor of Harrison inside the old U.S. Disciplinary Barracks.
"These two roads less than a mile apart symbolize our deep appreciation of the lives of two extraordinary men and illustrate our respect to the weight of their names - and in remembrance of their sacrifice - both forever etched as a reminder of their life's work, which was our security," Green said. "It is our hope that every day, those who work here will be reminded of their proud and noble service."
Green read comments from Sabalu's friends and fellow service members.
From Rick Brake: "Wil loved his family so much ... he had family pictures all over his wall in his room and talked about them all of the time. I know he's looking down with that warm smile and watching them every minute of every day. He was so grateful for his wife Amy and was so in love with her. We used to sit and talk just about every night for hours on end it seemed, laughing and joking. He couldn't have had a more perfect family."
From Patrick Jones: "I thought he was everything an NCO should be and I appreciated his demeanor, professionalism, and friendship. Master Sergeant Sabalu was a Soldier of many traits who always took the time to teach other people what he knew. He was loved and will be missed by all of us. He, without a doubt, was as good a man out of uniform as well as in uniform - HONORABLE."
Col. Eric Belcher, commander of the 15th MP Brigade, said he was serving in Afghanistan at the time of Sabalu's death. He said that what Sabalu and Harrison were doing - training and mentoring ANA soldiers - was very important to the security and stability of the region. Belcher said this training helped the Afghan people detain criminals.
"Many Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, civilians and Afghan soldiers got to know that great personality called Master Sergeant Sabalu," Belcher wrote. "He was respected by all."
Juan Guzman, now a Department of the Army police officer for Fort Leavenworth, served with Sabalu in Company A, 705th Military Police Battalion. He remembers Sabalu getting involved with adult sports activities on post. Guzman said Sabalu had a great sense of humor and was always trying to pass his positive attitude onto his Soldiers.
"He always looked after the Soldiers first," he said. "No matter what."
Maria Kuilan, wife of Angel Kuilan who served with Sabalu at the USDB, remembers taking care of the couple's children. She said his children are her godchildren and the Sabalus also served as her children's godparents.
"His kids were my kids and my kids were their kids, that's what the godparent is all about," she said.
She brought all the children from her in-home daycare, MDRGoose, to witness the ceremony. Kuilan said she still remembers the smile for which Sabalu was so well known.
"Nadia has her dad's smile," she said. "If you saw his picture and her smile, she's just like him."