Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shin W. Kim dies 'of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Baghdad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices'

Tammy Cho always picked up Shinwoo Kim and brought him home to his family when he took a break from his military service.

Those times were too few, but when Kim, an Army medic, flew in, Cho made sure to be there waiting for her longtime friend.

In a few days, the 22-year-old will do it one last time. This time, she'll fly to Delaware to escort Kim's body home.

“As of right now, our emotions are like waves,” Cho said Sunday night. “It just comes and goes. Some waves are bigger than others. It's still unbelievable.”

On June 28, Kim became the second soldier from Fullerton in a week to be killed in Iraq. Shane Stinson, a 23-year-old Army private, also died last month weeks after returning to duty in Iraq.

Kim, who graduated from Sunny Hills High School, died after being attacked by insurgents in Baghdad. He and three other soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo., when they were killed by makeshift explosives.

Friends and family were devastated Thursday when they received the news. Kim was a 23-year-old medic for the U.S. Army. According to friends, Kim had six more months to go before completing his 15-month assignment in Iraq, his first tour of duty there. 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.

Cho said he told her: “What I really miss is being home. What I really miss is doing whatever I want to do. I miss driving my car.”

Kim – whose friends called him “Doughboy” and “Woo-meister” -- had a great, big smile. Even in his official military photograph, Kim couldn't resist flashing a smile that will be cherished by friends and family.

“He had the most awesome smile,” said his older sister Shinae Kim, 27. “He has a smile that could brighten up the room. He was caring. He was hilarious. He was loyal. He was adventurous.”

“I just spoke to him the day before he died,” longtime friend Christine Kim said through tears on Sunday. “He was my best friend. He called me on Wednesday before he went to bed and said, ‘Hey buddy, I want you to cheer me up,' so I told him about the silly dream I had about having a pet platypus.”

Christine Kim, who is not related to Shinwoo (pronounced Shinoo), said she got her friend to laugh, but he had look up “platypus” on Google first.

According to Kim, Shinwoo had dreams to go to USC to become a pharmacist, but not before backpacking through Europe. Traveling was one of the main reasons Shinwoo joined the army, said Christine Kim.

“He was very adventurous and wanted to see the world,” said Kim, who has known Shinwoo for eight years. “He even once tried to get his parents to send him to boot camp in high school.”

His family members were against him joining the military, Cho said. The Fullerton soldier attended Fullerton Junior College after high school and enlisted in the Army in 2005. He became a medic because he wanted to help people, his sister said, and received a Bronze Star.

When close friends found out about Shinwoo Kim's death, they gathered and paid a visit to his parents' home in Fullerton on Saturday to pay their respects. They also left eulogies on the soldier's MySpace page.

Shinwoo was the youngest of three children in the Kim family. He also has an older brother Josh, 31.

“I reminded them of the time in high school when Shinwoo crashed his Infiniti and he had to drive around a green Kia instead. His mom had told him it was a rental car for him to use in the meantime, but then he found out that she bought it for him as a replacement and he was like, ‘What??'” Christine Kim said. “His parents were laughing so hard remembering that.”

The last time Christine Kim saw her best friend was in February, when Shinwoo came home from Iraq during a two-week break.

“I'm so glad he came back home and made it out to my birthday,” she said. “I will always be grateful I got to see him smile that big smile of his again.”

Cho will find out today when she will be traveling to pick up Shinwoo's body.

“It hasn't hit me yet that he's not going to be here,” Cho said. “He was my sunshine.”

From the Orange County Register