FULLERTON, CA, USA U.S. Army SGT, HHC, 2D BATTALION, 12TH INFANTRY, FORT CARSON, CO BALAD, IRAQ 06/28/2007
Sergeant Kim, my friend. I was there for you and didn’t leave you. You were there for me and saved my life. I owe my life to you. I can’t ever repay you. I don’t know what God has planned for everyone’s life. But it was such heartache that I felt when you left us. We love you Kim. We miss you. You’re a great soldier and a hero. You are always remembered. — Arvin
During two weeks of home leave from Iraq in February, Army Sergeant Shinwoo Kim surrounded himself with friends and relatives, binged on junk food and traveled to Las Vegas.
The combat medic from Fullerton, however, couldn’t leave Iraq completely behind. Before returning to the battlefield, he visited a memorial to Iraq’s dead on a Santa Monica beach and left the name of a fallen friend on one cross in the precise rows of crosses.
“It was like something he just had to do,” said his girlfriend Tammy Cho.
Shinwoo, 23, was among five soldiers killed in a June 28 Baghdad attack. Last weekend, it was his family’s turn to pay tribute to him at the memorial, known as Arlington West.
“We know he’s gone. But I guess we haven’t fully accepted it,” said his sister Shinae, 27. “My mom and dad are having a difficult time coping. We all are. Shinwoo was the baby. My mom never stopped calling him her baby.”
The family keeps a shrine with his picture and combat awards in their living room, and a certificate granting the South Korean native posthumous U.S. citizenship. Kim’s parents, Yoo Buk and Kum Ok Kim, emigrated from South Korea with their three children 20 years ago. They said they didn’t want their son to enlist in the Army. But he was moved to enlist by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“He kept newspaper stories about the attacks and terrorism,” his brother Josh, 31, said. “We didn’t want him to join, but after he did we all supported him.”
He volunteered to be a medic because he wanted to help people, not hurt them, Cho said.
Kim served in South Korea for a year before deploying to Iraq. He came home on leave in 2006 and thought he was to be permanently assigned to Fort Carson, Colo. He was ordered back to Iraq soon after.
Josh Kim said his brother did not die immediately from the attack. A doctor in Iraq held a telephone to Kim’s ear as his family bid the unconscious soldier goodbye from their Fullerton home.
The last time Christine Kim saw her best friend was in February, when Shin W. Kim came home from Iraq during a two-week break. A medic, he told friends how much he missed them and how much he missed things like driving his brand-new Lexus and eating a Double-Double burger from In-N-Out with a pink lemonade.
He had the most awesome smile, said his older sister Shinae Kim. He has a smile that could brighten up the room. He was caring. He was hilarious. He was loyal. He was 23 years old.