Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jay S. Cajimat dies of injuries from vehicle-borne I.E.D.

LAHAINA – A 2005 Lahainaluna High School graduate who was described as a “loving son,” a “role model” to his siblings and the “unspoken leader” among friends died last week while fulfilling one of his dreams.

Pfc. Jay S. Cajimat, 20, died Friday in Baghdad of wounds suffered when a roadside car bomb exploded near his unit. He was with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan.

“He was a good soldier, and he loved to serve his nation,” said his mother, Lilibeth Cajimat, holding back tears.

“He always said he wanted to be in the Army,” added his 16-year-old sister, LC.

Cajimat is also survived by his father Dionie Cajimat and two other sisters Kaya, 18, and LJ, 3.

Dionie Cajimat said his son always set a positive example for his three younger sisters.

“He was a good son, always talked nice about his sisters and always advised them to be good,” he said.

LC said her brother had a “positive personality and was always easy to get along with.”

“He was really funny, lovable and just a fun person to hang out with. He loved to play and joke around,” she said.

Jay Cajimat was born in Manila, the Philippines, and his family moved to Maui when he was 3 years old. He enlisted in the Army immediately after graduating from high school.

Anne Goff, an 18-year English teacher at Lahainaluna, recalled Cajimat as being “very sweet, hardworking, very respectful.”

“His dream was to go into the military to serve his country,” she said. “He could hardly wait to graduate to join up.”

On a MySpace Web site page apparently set up by Cajimat, the soldier expressed his admiration for soldiers and other service workers. He wrote on the site that his heroes are “Past and Future veterans of the United States Armed Forces and all police officers, firefighters, and anyone who puts their lives on the line to save lives every day.”

Goff said she expects Lahainaluna Principal Mike Nakano to tell students about Cajimat’s death during morning announcements today.

“There will be an air of sadness about the school tomorrow and throughout the week,” she said Sunday evening. For the students to lose an alumnus, “it hits them pretty hard.”

Classmate Germine Corpuz described Cajimat as the “go-to” person among their group of friends.

Corpuz said he and Cajimat first met when they were about 4 years old at a church event. They continued their friendship through the years and attended the same schools growing up, first at Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, then Lahaina Intermediate School and Lahainaluna High School.

“He was the leader of our group,” said Corpuz. “We couldn’t believe that a guy like him actually passed, and now we’re just trying to collect ourselves.”

“Within our group, he was the unspoken leader, although he’d never admit it,” said classmate Rodney Saribay.

Saribay said he and Cajimat first met in the 3rd grade at Princess Nahienaena and had been friends ever since.

“If you had a problem, you’d go and see Jay,” Saribay said via telephone from Phoenix, where he is attending Universal Technical Institute.

Even after his death, Cajimat seems to be helping his friends cope with this tragedy, Saribay said.

“We still confide in him and still go to him, even though he’s not here,” he said.

Classmate Sheryl Taccuban, a 20-year-old student at Maui Community College, said Cajimat liked to laugh and joke around.

“I’ll miss laughing with him and stuff, having a good time with him,” she said. “It’s so hard to believe that he’s gone.”

Lahainaluna classmate Eileen Domingo, a 20-year-old sophomore at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., said Cajimat seemed to have a premonition about not surviving the war.

“He knew that it was going to happen,” she said. “He knew he was going to die for his country . . . It was brave of him going in (to the military) knowing that.”

Taccuban said that when friends saw Cajimat in December on Maui they asked him if he was scared to go to Iraq.

“He said, yeah, but he was excited,” she said. “I guess he had mixed feelings about it.”

Classmate Tuan Pham, a 19-year-old student at Maui Community College, said Cajimat called him about a month ago in tears, saying he was worried about his family.

“He had an emotional breakdown, and he asked me to watch over his family if anything ever happened to him,” Pham said.

Another longtime friend who knew Cajimat since elementary school, 19-year-old Walter Batarina, said Cajimat “had his good and bad days” while serving in Iraq, but that he was very proud of the work he was doing.

“He was definitely proud of it,” Batarina said.

He added that Cajimat regretted being so far away from his 3-year-old sister, LJ, because he was afraid that he wouldn’t be home to take care of his baby sister as she grew up.

“She was attached to him, and he would always take care of her,” said Batarina. “I guess he was scared he wouldn’t be there as she got older.”

Cajimat’s sister Kaya Cajimat agreed that he wanted to be there for LJ.

“I think he regretted going because he wouldn’t get a chance to see her grow up,” she said.

LC said she kept in contact with her brother through a MySpace networking site on the Internet. The last time they communicated was last week, she said.

“He told me that Iraq was getting to him . . . It was getting hard for him, but he said don’t worry about him,” she said as she fought back tears. “I just told him to hang in there, and that we all love him.”

“He’s a hero to all of us,” said Kaya Cajimat.

“He’s such a loving son, I know he loved everybody so much,” added his mother.

She said the family will bring her son’s body back to Maui to be with friends and family. On Sunday, family members were undecided whether to bury Cajimat in the Philippines, where he was born, or in Hawaii.

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