Tinian resident Francisco “Frank” Mendiola, 49, said his whole body went numb when he first heard that his son, the late U.S. Army Specialist Hanson Mendiola, was brought to the intensive care unit and passed away in Texas on July 22. His son was 29.
“It was so hard and painful to hear news like that. My whole body went numb when I heard he was in ICU. He passed away later. The U.S. Army is still investigating what happened,” the older Mendiola told Saipan Tribune in a phone interview yesterday.
The father said his son joined the U.S. Army some four years ago.
“He’d always wanted to be in the Army,” the older Mendiola said.
He said his son graduated valedictorian in high school, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Western Oregon University. He said his son taught for two years at Tinian High School.
“One summer he went to Guam because he said he wanted to teach there. But he called me from Guam and he said he’s joining the Army. I said it’s his choice to make. I’m proud of my son, and I was very supportive of what he wanted to do in his life,” the father said.
The late Army specialist was stationed in South Korea for a year before going back to Fort Meade in Maryland.
“I will miss everything about my son-his kindness, his respect for people. He’s a very loving son of mine. He does not distinguish color of the skin or nationality. He’d give his last dollar to anyone who needs it, he’s that kind of person. People love Hanson,” the father said.
The late Army specialist has two siblings also serving in the U.S. -a sister in the U.S. Army and a brother in the U.S. Air Force.
The older Mendiola said the family is expecting his son’s remains to arrive on Tinian on Thursday and bury him on Friday on Tinian, but he pointed out that this still could change, depending on the U.S. Army’s decision.
“We would know for sure on Tuesday, which is Monday their time in the U.S. But that’s what we’re hoping, for the body to be here soon so we can bury him because it’s been a while since he passed away and the Army still hasn’t released the body,” he added.
Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz said the late Army specialist was a “great kid, very respectful, and with so much potential.”
Anthony Aguon, a staffer at the office of Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian), said he and the late Mendiola were members of a band called Roots Eclectic that “used to play shows in Guam and festivals on Saipan.” Aguon said Mendiola “sings and raps.”
“That guy’s my best friend and we already miss him,” Aguon said yesterday.
Sen. Henry San Nicolas (Cov-Tinian) said they were shocked to learn about the news of Hanson Mendiola’s passing, and he extends his condolences to the Mendiola family.
“We’re all praying for the family. Hanson was a very friendly person. It’s unfortunate that he’s gone,” San Nicolas said.
Friends, colleagues, and family paid tribute and posted their memories and touching messages about Mendiola on his Facebook page.
The late Army specialist was born on March 18, 1983 to parents Francisco “Frank” Mendiola and Erlinda Sangalang-Mendiola.
The father said a nightly Rosary is being held at San Jose Church on Tinian at 8pm.