Min Hee (Andy) Kim – Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

November 02, 2006
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Corporal Minhee Kim, 20, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, died November 1, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Lansing, Mich.

A Marine who felt urgency to serve
Friends say they'll miss joy of Min Hee Kim, 20, killed in Iraq skirmish
Saturday, November 4, 2006
Courtesy of Ann Arbor, Michigan, News

As a student at Pioneer High School, Min Hee “Andy” Kim had a yearning to serve his country in the military.

But, as a good son who wanted to honor his parents' wishes, he enrolled at Purdue University after high school graduation in 2004.

Thoughts of the military life wouldn't go away, however, and by the second semester, he was in boot camp learning how to be a United States Marine. After a few more months at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, he was sent overseas.

Lance Corporal Kim, 20, died Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province in Iraq, the Department of Defense said.

His three best friends said Friday that while they'll miss him terribly, they know he died at peace.

“With his belief in Jesus Christ, he knew he had a greater hope,” said Gabe Pak, his tennis partner at Pioneer. “He wasn't here for the things of this world. He knew he had a reward in heaven.”

Kim was born in Maryland and lived in various parts of the country. His family moved to Ann Arbor in 1996. He is survived by his parents, Don and Mi Hea Kim, as well as his younger brother Isaac, a senior at Pioneer High School. Funeral arrangements are pending.

His parents are taking the death very hard, said David Shin, pastor of the Harvest Mission Community Church in Ann Arbor, which Kim joined as a teenager.

“He was very young, and it happened very suddenly,” Shin said.

Kim felt a sense of urgency about joining the military, Shin said, adding: “I don't know so much that it was directly related to the war on terror, but he wanted to serve his country.”

Kim was assigned to the Marine Reserve's 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division out of Lansing. Shin said he'd talked to Kim just two weeks ago, and he reported that his unit had been going on patrols every day and the work was physically difficult.

All of Kim's close friends knew of his interest in joining the Marines, Pak said.

“Whenever we talked about the future, he mentioned wanting to join the military and wanted to serve his country,” he said. “That's really what he wanted to do.” Pak said Kim's e-mails from Iraq ended a couple of weeks ago, when he assumed Kim's duties there were becoming more intense.

“The main thing about him is that he had joy, no matter what the circumstances,” Pak said. “No matter what he was going through, or hardships, he was one of the most joyful people I met. He always brought a smile to my face. Even in Iraq, he'd crack jokes and remind me of all the good times we had together.”

Much of Kim's extended family has arrived from out of town to support his family, Pak said.

Justin Aramaki, another of Kim's closest friends, said Kim enjoyed tennis, hockey, playing guitar, movies, ultimate Frisbee, and random road trips.

“He had a way about him, Aramaki said. “There was something about him that set him apart and made him unique from everyone else.”

Aramaki recalled the time he was struggling emotionally and called Kim just to talk. The two decided to drive around town. Aramaki said that while he was in midsentence, Kim turned up the radio and started singing loudly to one ridiculous song after another.

“That was exactly what I needed,” he said. “I didn't need to talk. He understood everything I was going through, and he realized his friendship was what I needed at the time. And it was perfect.”

Aramaki attended a memorial service Thursday night at the Michigan Union, where Kim's family and friends gathered to remember him as a young man who was thankful for everything this country had given him and wanted to give back in return.

Aaron Kim, who is not related to Min Hee Kim, went to Purdue with Kim following their high school graduation together in 2004. Though the two lived in separate buildings, they spent much of their free time together.

“We'd go to the gym and work out because he was getting himself ready to go to training camp,” he said. “He wouldn't push himself that hard, and I said, ‘You're going to be a Marine …' He said when the time came, he would be strong enough to get through it; that training would be no problem.” Aaron Kim had his doubts, but his friend proved him wrong.

“He was really diligent in everything he did,” he said. “He always set goals, and no matter what it took or what he had to do, he achieved them.

“We talked to him a lot about the military being dangerous. But he was passionate about it. We didn't understand how or why he had so much passion for it. We were kind of like, ‘Are you seriously going to do this?' By the way he approached it, we could tell this was his passion and desire. There was not much we could say. The best we could do is support him.” Aaron Kim said that despite the sorrow at the “huge, immeasurable loss” of their friend, he doesn't feel anger.

“He brought a lot of happiness and laughter in our lives,” he said. “We feel blessed to have the time we had, and we're all encouraged by his life.”

Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Funeral services set for local Marine

Funeral services have been set for two local Marines killed last week in the line of duty in Iraq.

Services will be Thursday for Marine Lance Corporal Min Hee “Andy” Kim, 20, a 2004 Pioneer High School graduate, who was killed November 1, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province.

Viewing will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 5171 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, followed by a Marine Corps League memorial service from 6 to 7 p.m. The funeral will be from 7 to 8 p.m. with a reception from 8 to 9 p.m. Burial will take place later at Arlington National Cemetery.

Two Marines Killed in Iraq Shared Early Desire to Serve
By Arianne Aryanpur
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Thursday, November 16, 2006

Marine Lance Corporal Minhee “Andy” Kim and Corporal Michael H. Lasky died young, but family and friends said they died believing they had made a difference.

Both men were killed in combat in Iraq's Anbar province. Kim, 20, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, died November 1, 2006. Lasky, 22, of Sterling, Alaska, died November 2, 2006.


Marines carry the flag draped casket of Lance Cpl. Minhee Andy Kim of Ann Arbor, Michigan,
who died while serving in Iraq, during funeral service, Wednesday, November 15, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery


Mi Hea Kim, left, and Dong Kim, parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Minhee Kim, 20, of
Ann Arbor, Michigan, are presented with an American flag


Major General Douglas O'Dell, left, comforts the Kim family, from right,
brother, Isaac, father, Dong and mother Mi Hea, during funeral services for Lance
Corporal Minhee Andy Kim of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Wednesday, November. 15,
2006 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Yesterday, they were buried hours apart at Arlington National Cemetery, where the sun occasionally broke through the clouds and cast shadows over the rows of white headstones.

Mourners gathered before noon to honor Kim. His parents, Dong and Mi Hea Kim, South Korean immigrants, wept as they received a folded American flag.

Isaac Kim said his older brother was committed to his faith and to joining the military. He wrote to a Marine recruiter in elementary school but was turned down for being too young, news reports said.

“He wanted to serve his country. He was thankful for being a U.S. citizen, and this was a small way to pay back that gratitude,” said David Shin, Kim's pastor at Harvest Mission Community Church in Ann Arbor.

After graduating from Pioneer High School, Kim enrolled at Purdue University and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. He transferred to the University of Michigan at Dearborn last year after completing basic training.

In September, he deployed to Iraq with the Marine Reserve's 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division of Lansing, Michigan.

John Thomas, a gunnery sergeant who taught Kim, remembered him as soft-spoken and committed.

“The first time I met him, I asked him, ‘Marine, why are you so quiet?' He replied, ‘Waiting on the gunny to provide instruction!' He had a quiet, reserved demeanor,” Thomas wrote in an online guest book.

Family and friends said they are struggling with the sudden loss.

“I think a lot of people were sad because he died at such an early age,” Shin said. “But at the same time, all of us are really proud of what he stood for, serving his country and being a faithful Christian. We know he was able to live a full life while he was here.”

Later yesterday, mourners gathered one grave site over to honor Lasky.

He was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve's 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

Lasky's wife, Jessica, bowed her head as a chaplain delivered the sermon before his flag-draped coffin. Lasky is also survived by a 1-year-old daughter, Liberty Lynn, and his parents, Carol and Donn.

Donn Lasky, a Navy veteran, said his son always wanted to join the military, but it wasn't until junior high school that he became serious and entered a training program for youths who wanted to become Marines.

He attended Kenai Alternative School and wrestled and played football through Skyview High School in Soldotna, Alaska.

“He played linebacker at 125 [pounds], if that gives you any idea of his mentality,” his father said.

After his first tour of Iraq, Lasky returned to Sterling for seven months. Family and friends said his demeanor, and his decision to help train young Marines in his home town, demonstrated his maturation.

“Growing up, he was less than, shall we say, an altar boy,” Donn Lasky said. “That lasted until he joined the Marines, and then it was a 180-[degree] turnaround.”

Lasky volunteered for an elite Marine reconnaissance unit that deployed to Iraq this fall.

Jessica Lasky said that she kept in touch with her husband by e-mail and that it sounded like he was doing what he loved.

“He loved his family, his community. He loved being a Marine, and he loved his daughter the most,” she said. “He wondered what was the best for his family, and in his heart he believed that fighting in Iraq made it a better place for us to live here. He said, ‘This is my job, and I have to do it.' “

Kim and Lasky were the 274th and 275th service members killed in the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington.

Marine mourned Andy Kim's burial at Arlington is fitting, family says

Friday, November 17, 2006
Courtesy of the Ann Arbor, Michigan, News

Passengers waiting to board Northwest Flight 239 from Washington, D.C., to Detroit on Wednesday night drank coffee, read newspapers and chatted on cell phones.

Few seemed to notice the woman dressed in black, who sat with heavy, sorrowful eyes, stroking a perfectly folded American flag.

There were 29 people buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, a mild autumn day in Virginia, as leaves fell gently on row after row of white marble markers.

The youngest was Marine Lance Corporal Andy Kim, the woman's 20-year-old son.

Two weeks earlier on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon in Michigan, three Marines and a chaplain arrived at the Kim family's Ann Arbor home.

When 17-year-old Isaac Kim answered the doorbell, no words were necessary. He let them in, then called his mother, who was shopping at Kroger.

“Mom,” he said. “Can you come home?”

“Why, Isaac?” asked the soft-spoken Mi Hea.

“Come home,” he said. “There are Marines here.”

She hung up and called her husband, Don, at his Korean foods import office in New Jersey. Don told her to stay strong, and to get home safely. Then he called Isaac.

Let me talk to the Marines,” he told his son.

Captain Mabel Balduf took the phone.

“Where are you?” the officer asked. “Are you driving?”

“What's wrong?” Don responded. “He is gone? He is gone? He is gone?”

“Yes,” she said. “I regret to inform you …”

Isaac was listening from the living room. The phone call made it official. His big brother and only sibling was gone.

A path to the Marines

Don and Mi Hea (pronounced “Me Hay”) Kim met in college in Korea and married 24 years ago. Then Don got his student visa to attend the University of Pennsylvania and she stayed behind for a year. While living in Korea, Mi Hea suffered four miscarriages.

After they moved to the United States, they conceived a fifth time and prepared for more disappointment. But this time they would joyfully welcome their first child, a son they named Min Hee. Andy became his “American name.”

Because it's mandatory for Korean males to serve two years in the military, Andy's birth in Maryland was a relief to his Korean relatives. Now he wouldn't have to become a soldier.

The Kims agreed: A volunteer army was one of the many good things about being an American.

Then came the day that Don found a letter from the United States Marines Corps addressed to Andy. It said, in effect, “Thank you for your interest in the United States Marines. Call us again when you're 18.”

He was 12.

“I said to him, ‘Why didn't you ask me about this?”' recalled Don.

Andy told him he was sorry, but he was sure about it. He wanted to be a Marine.

They didn't talk much about it for the next few years. Andy enjoyed hockey and tennis, as evidenced by the many trophies on display in the small bedroom he'd painted Marine green.

During his sophomore year at Pioneer High School, friends introduced Andy to the Harvest Mission Community Church, which meets at Angell Hall on the University of Michigan campus. He became a strong Christian, whose faith would mean everything to him from then on.

But nothing changed his mind about joining the Marines. When he was a high school senior, he invited a recruiter to the house.

His parents tried to reason with him. He could be sent to Iraq, where he could be seriously injured or killed. Is that what he wanted?

He wanted to serve his country, he said. No matter what.

 said, ‘Why?”' recalled his mother, who sometimes uses an interpreter. “‘To wear the uniform? You've been watching too much movie.”'

“I want to hear the reason,” his father said. “Then I can allow it.”

“I was born in America,” Andy replied. “It's an appreciation of where I was born. I want to pay back.”

“I like America, too!” his mother interjected. “But not that much!”

She said there were lots of other ways to serve one's country.

“Everything else is an excuse,” Andy told her. “The Marines are the best way.”

And what if he ended up in Arlington Cemetery? his father asked.

“That would be honorable,” the son replied.

While a college student, first at Purdue and then the University of Michigan in Dearborn, Andy Kim enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment based in Lansing, the largest Marine Reserve deployment in Michigan.

His pastor, David Shin, suggested that as a college student, Andy should consider becoming an officer.

But Andy had already switched from engineering to infantry.

“He said, ‘I want to be with my fellow Marines on the front lines,”' Shin said. “He said he wanted to experience what it meant to be with them before he led them.”

He trained in San Diego during the summer, and was deployed to Iraq in late September.

When he was leaving, Andy told his mother, “The time goes by fast. I'll be back before you know it.”

“I said to him, ‘Andy, I don't want to see you on the TV news. I want to see you, OK?' He said, ‘OK, Mom. Don't cry.”'

He used to buy her flowers on every holiday, including Valentine's Day. Now he called home or e-mailed as often as possible.

In an e-mail to friends and family on October 1, 2006, Andy wrote:

Hey everybody. how are you all doing? We're in iraq now right outside downtown fallujah where we'll be for at least the next couple months. we're all very excited over here to finally get to do our job, but definitely some anxiety floating around. we'll be hitting the ground running when we get there tomorrow so there are many different emotions running around. But so far, even though its been very hard physically and mentally, i've been learning so much more about God and His word in a tangible way. a lot of the things that we go through, talk about, and do go very much hand in hand with what He speaks about and it seems to come to life more. One verse thats been sticking out to me has been psalm 44:22. it brings an odd comfort that He calls us to die each day to many different things, physically or spiritually. I need to learn more to take my hands off situations, especially when i can't control who gets to come home in one piece and who doesn't. thank you for your prayers. i'm really grateful. Andy.

On October 16, he wrote: Hey guys. I have a prayer request please. We lost our first two marines the other day. Lance Corporal Heinz – he has a son thats 8 weeks old and a wife. Sergeant Babb – he has a wife and a couple children. Thanks. Andy.

Around that same time, he called home, sounding weary. It was the first time he complained.

“Mom, I'm really hot and tired,” he said. “I go out every day for most of the day, and I'm so tired.”

“Andy, sleep,” his mother told him. “Sleep. So you can stay alert.”

On October 28, 2006, his 20th birthday came and went without word from him. They'd sent birthday greetings and were awaiting a reply, which never came. It was unlike him. He would have known his mother needed to hear from him.

“I think they worked him too much and too hard,” said Don.

On November 1, 2006, four days after his 20th birthday, while among a group of Marines on patrol in Fallujah, a bullet pierced Lance Corporal Andy Kim's neck. “Hostile fire,” they call it. Two medics were there, but there was nothing they could do.

The Kims take comfort knowing he didn't suffer.

Andy had often prayed that his parents would go to church, but they declined.

Mi Hea thinks back now on all those times with regret.

“That would have meant so much to him,” she said, sitting in her living room, her voice breaking.

But after he went to Iraq, she did go to a service once.

“Did Andy know I went to church?” Mi Hea asked Isaac.

The younger son nodded. “I e-mailed him about that. He wrote back that that was awesome,” he said.

“You're sure?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “He said it was awesome.”

As she spoke, Mi Hea held the three possessions the Marines had sent in a red velvet pouch: a crucifix, his dog tags and a Timex watch, still ticking on Iraqi time.

Someone suggested that she place the crucifix in the casket with Andy, but Mi Hea knew he would have wanted her to keep it.

“I think Andy gave it as a gift,” she said.

Coming home

It was raining on the night of Tuesday, November 7, 2006. As voters across the nation headed toward the polls, the plane carrying Andy Kim's body landed at Detroit Metro Airport. Two Marines climbed into the cargo hold at the rear of the plane, removed the casing protecting the casket, and draped a flag over it.

Clayne Frazer, funeral director at Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor, stood waiting on the tarmac with the Kims.

First off the plane was the passengers' luggage.

Then, the casket.

At the first sight of it, Mi Hea collapsed to her knees.

“I do this every day,” Frazer later said. “But it put a lump in my throat to see the family's reaction. I have a 9-year-old boy. I can't imagine seeing my son back from Iraq in a flag-draped coffin.”

A police escort led the short procession back to Ann Arbor, where police had blocked intersections along the route. The Kims later said they were surprised, and honored.

For us?” Mi Hea asked quietly.

That night at the funeral home, the family viewed the body in a private room. Andy was clothed in his Marine dress blues, his white collar covering where the bullet had entered his body.

The body lay in state the next day, but the Kims could not bring themselves to go back.

During a private family viewing before the funeral, Mi Hea stroked her son's hair, straightened his suit and kissed his face. On one side of the casket sat the official military portrait of the lance corporal looking every bit like a serious and tough Marine. On the other side, a happy and relaxed Andy smiled from his high school senior picture.

About 500 people showed their respects during a six-hour visitation, Marine ceremony and funeral on Thursday, November 9, 2006. A slide show of fun times with his friends, and a video clip of Andy speaking at church, helped those who didn't know Andy – including about 50 Marines of all ages who had come to pay their respects – feel as if they did.

The mourners wept as the family hugged Andy's body before the casket was closed for the last time. Still, it wasn't time for a final good-bye. That would have to wait another six days.

Burial at Arlington

About 10 percent of the troops killed in active duty are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which sits across the Potomac River from the nation's capital. The military leaves it up to the families to decide where a fallen soldier is buried. For the Kims, the choice was obvious. Andy had said it would be an honor to end up there, and so that's where they would take him.

Fifty-two friends and relatives flew or drove to Virginia for the burial. They all wore black.

At the gravesite ceremony, Chaplain Ron Nordan told the mourners that Andy was among an “extraordinary group of men and women who have voluntarily stood up and raised their hand to serve their country, not only to fight for our freedoms, but for the freedoms of all people on this earth.”

“Even given the end that we know today, if he had to choose to do it all over again, he would have done the same,” he said. ” … Today we honor him for his sacrifice.”

After a squad of seven Marines fired their rifles three times in succession, a bugler played the sorrowful notes of taps.

When Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell walked over with the flag and knelt down before Mi Hea, she broke down as he spoke quietly in her ear, one hand on her shoulder. Accepting the flag, she leaned her head on his shoulder, sobbing.

It was time for the family to say their final good-bye. Mi Hea cradled the casket, then asked an officer on which end her son's head laid. She then rested her head there awhile, stroking the wood.

Andy was the 3,061st soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the 274th to be buried at Arlington.

Andy's grave was first in a new row in a section reserved for those killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan.

By the end of the day, another family had buried their Marine in a grave beside him. A third hole had been dug for the next day's burial of a U.S. Army soldier killed in a helicopter crash.

Andy's friend David Yon, an eighth-grade teacher in Saline, chaperoned a class of eighth-graders on a visit to Arlington last spring. He never thought a close friend would be buried there.

The understanding that Andy is a part of that proud legacy seems right, he said.

“I can see him fitting in perfectly in that spot,” he said. “It's totally him. It sums up who he is as a person. I look forward now to the times I'll get a chance to come with the eighth-graders back to D.C. and have that opportunity to remember him every year and also share with my students the type of person Andy was.”

Forever in their hearts

After the burial, the dozens of mourners piled into rental cars and headed for an elegant Korean restaurant for a big lunch, courtesy of the Kims.

Two tables were filled with relatives, who ate quietly. But there was much chatting at the tables of Andy's young friends, who shared their memories of him. Their laughter was a reassuring sign that as much as they'd miss him, life goes on.

Andy was one of a group of six best friends who called themselves “The Asian Invasion” in ninth grade, and now “The Homeboys.”

Now reduced to five, the group posed for pictures with big smiles and hugs.

Then they posed for one more: This time, with their adopted little brother, Isaac.

Mi Hea and Don watched, smiling. Isaac will not join the Marines. That one thing, they say, is for sure.

After lunch, Sergeant Jesse Lake, part of Andy's division in Lansing, who had been with the family through the whole ordeal, took the Kims and their extended family sight-seeing in Washington. Eventually, they made their way back to Arlington to see the eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy.

When Don turned around, he was awed by a sweeping view of the cemetery, with the lights of the capital in the distance.

“I thought, ‘This was where Min Hee wanted to be,”' Don later said. “He thought it was honorable to stay in Arlington. I'm proud of that. I think I was never proud that he was a Marine. Today I felt proud that he was a Marine.

“In Ann Arbor, I thought, ‘Why I have to lose my son?' I asked God: ‘Why him? Why him?' I never had an answer. Today I'm proud of him.”

Until that day, Andy's relatives in Korea didn't understand why Andy wanted to join the Marines.

“Now my sister who was here says she understands,” said Don. “He was a real Marine. I thought he was just my son, but he was a Marine.”

  But later, as he sat in the airport and watched the mourners preparing to leave Washington, the father had another thought: How long will people remember Andy?

“How long?” he asked, his eyes tearing. “Even me. Sometime I'm going to laugh and enjoy myself and my life. I want to remember him every single time, every single second. After I am laughing, I feel sorry for Min Hee. That I'm lucky, and laughing.”

But he said he tries to remember one thing: His son would want him to be happy.

“If I laugh because God make me happy, he's going to like that kind of happy,” he said. “I'm going to pray every day for him. I'm going to go to church. Whatever he likes, I'll do it.”

On Tuesday night, Mi Hea had a dream. Andy was hugging her, his head pressed against her chest. She wanted to see his face, but he wouldn't move.


In the morning, before the burial, the Kims talked about what that could have meant. They agreed this was Andy's way of saying good-bye, with his head pressed to their hearts, where he will always stay.



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