|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Soldier had 'heart of a citizen'
Funeral - Sgt. Long Nguyen was the first Vietnamese American from Portland to die
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Mourners ducked through languid drops of rain and passed by a stiff row of flags and Oregon National Guardsmen to enter the church where they would honor a soldier Saturday.
Sgt. Long N. Nguyen of the Oregon National Guard was the first Vietnamese American from Portland to die in the Middle East conflict.
Nguyen, 27, was serving in Afghanistan as a supply specialist when he died Feb. 9 in Mazar-e-Sharif of a "noncombat related wound," according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
After the service, his family and friends said they were stunned to see the pews filled at the 350-occupancy Our Lady of Lavang church in Northeast Portland. Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard, along with nearly 30 members of Nguyen's 141st Brigade Support Battalion attended the funeral.
The governor praised Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who had moved to Portland 25 years ago, for serving his country.
"Long before he became a naturalized citizen, Sgt. Long Nguyen had the heart of a citizen," said Kulongoski, who announced that Nguyen had been made an American citizen posthumously.
The Rev. Richard Sirianni, an Air National Guard chaplain, celebrated Nguyen's devotion to his family and for inspiring a "culture of excellence" in those around him.
"He took people seriously," Sirianni said. "He listened with great care, and he was lavish in his generosity and kindness."
To his fellow soldiers, Nguyen was hardworking and showed a true love for the Army, Rees said. Any job given to Nguyen was done to perfection, and he frequently volunteered for extra responsibilities, he said.
Oregon National Guard officials have been told informally that Nguyen committed suicide, but the U.S. Army is investigating, and Oregon officials must wait until that investigation is done before they know more about his death. Oregon officials also want to know if fellow soldiers could have spotted any behavior that could have prevented his death.
Nguyen's death puzzles his friend, Jay Nguyen, a staff sergeant for the Oregon National Guard who saw Long Nguyen during Christmas break.
"He was fine," Jay Nguyen said. "He was laughing, and there was no indication of his death."
Nguyen's death is a loss for two communities. In the church, Nguyen's family and friends sang Vietnamese hymns. During the burial at Willamette National Cemetery, a soldier played taps in a final salute to a fellow soldier and citizen.