First female Filipino-American soldier killed in Iraq

Proud townsfolk of the first Filipino-American woman soldier killed in Iraq buried her remains Thursday with full U.S. military honors in the tiny village where she grew up before migrating to America nine years ago. A Roman Catholic chapel near the childhood home of Army Sgt. Myla Maravillosa in the village of U-og in central Inabanga town was too small to accommodate hundreds of people attending a funeral Mass.

A contingent of U.S. Army honor guards led by Brig. Gen. Gregory Schumacher provided traditional U.S. military honors, while Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado directed all Philippine flags flown at half mast in the entire province. Schumacher, commander of the Military Intelligence Readiness Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, described Maravillosa as a "true Filipino-American hero" who "represented the very best of the qualities that we desire in our soldiers and indeed represented the very best of humanity itself."

"The ties between the United States and the Philippines are deep and enduring and she is a symbol of that very strong relationship," he said. Schumacher knelt as he offered the folded U.S. flag that draped Maravillosa's coffin to her mother, together with her daughter's U.S. military medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Relatives and friends released white balloons with the message, "We will always remember, we will love you forever." Maravillosa's mother, Estelita, clutched the U.S. flag and watched quietly as people wept. "What sorrows I have now, I have to accept because that is her fate," Estelita Maravillosa said at the chapel. "She died not in vain. She died for a cause for the freedom of the whole world."

Provincial administrator Tomas Abapo said Maravillosa "died an honorable death in an important war" against terrorism, which is also plaguing the Philippines. Maravillosa moved to Hawaii when she was 16 to join her mother, who migrated in 1986. She attended college in Wahiawa and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1999. On Christmas Eve, Maravillosa's Humvee was attacked by Iraqi insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortally wounding her, according to the U.S. Defense Department, reports the AP. N.U.