On July 4, Inouye’s birthday, she received
a video clip, via e-mail, of her son, Deyson Cariaga, singing
happy birthday to her. Two days later, Cariaga called her from
Iraq, where he was stationed; at the end of their phone call
he told his mom that he was going on a mission, and he needed
to get some sleep. It was the last time Inouye spoke to her
The 20-year-old died on July 8, in Hammadi, Iraq, after a roadside
bomb exploded beneath his vehicle. According to the July 13
Honolulu Advertiser, Cariaga’s patrol had just finished
a mission and was returning to Logistical Support Area (LSA)
Anaconda, the base where he was stationed. As a Hawai‘i
National Guard soldier in the 229th Military Intelligence Company,
29th Brigade Combat Team, Spc. Cariaga is the only soldier
from Hawai‘i in the 29th Brigade to die in Iraq. He was
posthumously promoted to sergeant.
Inouye wiped tears away from her eyes as she reminisced about
her son. She said she carries with her, everywhere, her son’s
dog tag and the flashlight that he had on him daily when he
was in Iraq.
A 5-foot-10-inch, Japanese-Filipino from Kalihi, Cariaga lived
with his grandparents and would have turned 21 this past July
28. A 2002 graduate of Roosevelt High School, Cariaga became
interested in the military after he got involved with the Junior
Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program as a freshman
in high school.
(JROTC) provided them with guidance and structure,” said
Inouye. “It gave them a mission in life, something to
Cariaga signed up in the Army his senior year of high school
and according to his mom, he saw it as “a way to help
provide him with the education he wanted.”
Remembering who he was
He was an active kid who loved the ocean from very, very
young,” said Inouye. “Everything was the beach,
According to Inouye, her son loved to surf. One of his favorite
spots was Diamond Head and that’s one of the two places
Inouye visits her son and feel a sense of calm. Punchbowl
Cemetery, where Cariaga is buried, is the other place she
I usually bring my thoughts and a flower and go down there,” said
Cariaga loved the outdoors. He loved to run and bike and
at one point was involved in judo, aikido, soccer, and track.
He was a big “Calvin and Hobbes” fan as well
as an animal lover.
According to Inouye, her son was a food hoarder who always
had to have a stash of li hing mui sour apples, mango, and
gummy bears. He loved dried mango from the Philippines. He
told his mom he liked that kind because it wasn’t as
sweet. Aside from his snacks, Cariaga liked his vegetables,
especially his grandparents’ Japanese stir-fry.
Cariaga went to Honolulu Community College for one semester
before being activated. His mom said he had aspirations of
getting a fire science degree and becoming a fire fighter.
He was also thinking of carpentry as his second major. If
not that, said Inouye, he talked about going to the University
of Hawai‘i at Manoa and enrolling in “officer
school.” He was contemplating a life of service, either
as a soldier or a fire fighter.
Inouye recalls always telling her son, “life is about
you, and you got to do things for yourself.”
January 2005, was the first time Cariaga set foot in Iraq.
He was nicknamed “Dice” by his fellow soldiers
because they had a hard time pronouncing his name “Deyson.” According
to Inouye, Cariaga’s job involved interviewing Iraqis
and gathering information offbase. He had one roommate, Sgt.
Jared Chong, and according to Inouye, the two were training
for the triathlon for when they returned home. Cariaga mentioned
to his mom that he and Chong were gaining a lot of weight
and told her not to send too many snacks because they were
He’d always tell his mom “dusty out there.” He
contacted his family and friends through phone calls and
e-mails. Cariaga would often ask his mom to send care packages
with batteries, lotion, powder, newspaper clippings, and
pictures of home. Inouye said her son had surfing pictures
up on the wall in his room and looked forward to getting
back in the water.
He’d always say he just wanted to eat rice,” said
Inouye. “The kind that sticks together.”
Inouye was planning to remarry when her son returned home
for his break. Because he didn’t know for sure when
he would be returning home, and because his date to go home
kept getting pushed back, Cariaga told his mom, “Just
get married, Mom. When I come home we can have the party.” Inouye
said her son requested to take his leave over his birthday,
in late July.
Inouye has gone to the Honolulu Vet Center to talk to a grievance
counselor to help her through this process. The center provides
counseling and assistance that specifically relates to combat
experiences. She highly recommends this service to any soldiers
who need help dealing with the effects of war, such as post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD). Inouye said the Honolulu Vet Center
is totally confidential and not connected directly with the
military; therefore the visit cannot go on your records.
It is located on Kapiolani Boulevard and soldiers can contact
it by calling (808) 973-8387.
According to Inouye, every day is a hard day. “You
think you’re over it, but you go back and rewind,” she
said. She is slowly going into her son’s room and cleaning
it out. When Cariaga’s things were sent home from Iraq,
she recalled that he saved everything; every letter, every
Don’t take anything for granted,” said Inouye. “Technology
is great, but sometimes people don’t recognize what
a tangible letter or picture can do.”