Maung Phyo Thu Htaik
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 003-11
DOD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lance Corporal Maung P. Htaik, 20, of Hagerstown, Maryland, died January 1, 2011, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina/
For additional background information on this
Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division
public affairs office at 910-451-7200.
Maung P. Htaik told his family that he was going to be a scientist when he grew up. But after graduating from high school in 2009, he became a Marine.
His enlistment took his family by surprise, said his brother, Dan Yar, 25. He asked his brother why he joined, but he did not get an answer, he said.
"For him, there was no regret. He really liked where he was," said Yar, who added that his sibling was brave and joined the infantry. "As a brother, I always worried about him."
Lance Cpl. Maung Htaik, 20, of Hagerstown, Md., known as "Sam" to many of his friends, was killed Jan. 1 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Defense Department said.
About 70 family members, friends and Marines huddled together on an icy Tuesday morning for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. His family members placed their hands over their hearts to salute Htaik as a firing party fired three volleys. They solemnly accepted flags and condolences presented by Sgt. Maj. Eric J. Stockton.
The lance corporal was born in Burma, previously called Myanmar. His family moved to Singapore for a few years before coming to the United States in 2002.
"We were much closer at home before we came here," Yar said. "We were each other's friends."
The two shared a love of drawing and video
games, he said. But they grew apart as Yar went to college and took on
adult responsibilities and Htaik attended Smithsburg High School.
Yar said his brother enjoyed weight lifting and had many friends in both the Burmese youth group he attended and at Gateway Ministries in Williamsport, Md.
"He is a smart, godly man," his father, Hla Shwe, said of his youngest son.
Htaik was known for having good grades, being easygoing and not calling attention to himself, school officials told The Washington Post.
"He was a nice kid," said Diana Price, who taught Htaik world history. "A delightful young man." Price had received an e-mail from Htaik letting her know that he was doing all right and heading to Afghanistan.
"He used to be really talkative, one of those kids who said funny stuff all the time. Then, after the boot camp, he came back, he was more quiet" and mature, Yar said. His brother was deployed to Afghanistan in July and was due home in February.
"He called home and [asked] my mother to pray for a guy because he got shot," Yar said. "Every time we talked to him, he had other things going on. He never asked for anything from home. It was more about his friends and stuff going on. That is him."
Lance Cpl. Mark Dell, a Marine in Htaik's platoon, spoke at Htaik's Jan. 8 memorial service at Frederick Christian Fellowship Church via a video on Voice of America's Burmese news YouTube channel. Dell said the first time he saw Htaik was when Htaik came charging by a group of tired Marines at the end of a day of grueling exercises.
"First impressions are everything. For Sam, it truly was," Dell said. "The entire time I knew Sam, he never let up."
Htaik was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
His awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
"I just wish I had more time to spend with my brother," Yar said. "That is all that I really want."
18 February 2011:
Shortly after 9 a.m., a small group of mourners made its way across the frozen ground of Arlington National Cemetery, bells chiming from a distant clock tower.
Some clung to the arms of those next to them, others focused on the silver casket draped with the American flag.
Almost as a single unit, they made their way through a sea of starched uniforms and salutes.
Amid a military tradition honed by the agony of war, family and friends paid their final respects to a 20-year-old Washington County man they affectionately called "Samuel."
The names of those buried in Arlington read like an American history book — presidents, generals and statesmen.
On Tuesday morning, Lance Corporal Maung P. Htaik took his place beside them.
Htaik, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, died January 1, 2011, during combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan.
The family chose Arlington National Cemetery as his final resting place, his brother Dan Yar said, "because he deserves it."
"He would be proud," Yar added.
The son of Hla Shwe and Flory Shwe, Htaik was an infantryman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Htaik's family left Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 1998 and moved to Singapore. They came to the United States in 2002.
Htaik graduated from Smithsburg High School in 2008.
His pastor, Alan Greijack of Gateway Ministries in Williamsport, told those gathered at the grave site that "not only was Samuel a brave and courageous Marine, he was a mighty soldier in the army of God."
"Today, Samuel is in heaven," he said. "We know there is a resurrection. This is not the end. On Jan. 1, it was a beginning for Samuel."
The trip to Arlington began shortly after 5:30 a.m. at Stauffer Funeral Home in Frederick County, Maryland, when police escorted Htaik, as well as a chartered bus of family and friends along a snow- and ice-covered Interstate 270.
Many people traveled some distance to attend the ceremony, said family friend Peppy Smith of Hagerstown.
"The Burmese community is like a large family," he said. "They are very close-knit."
Smith said he knew Htaik for about five years and described him as "a quiet, peaceable young man."
"But he also liked challenges," Smith said.
Smith, a member of the Air National Guard, said he often talked with Htaik about military service.
"When he graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to go into the military," Smith said. "He liked the physical aspects, the challenges of the Marines."
Smith said he will remember Htaik as "not only a friend, but a person who extended a helping hand to other people. He truly loved his fellow man."
Leaving the Arlington ceremony, Htaik's father, Hla Shwe, broke into a spontaneous song.
"In the name of Jesus, we are the victory," he sang. "Samuel is the victory. The U.S. Marines is the victory. The United States of America is the victory."
Smith said he wasn't surprised by the father's joyous moment.
"His son is gone, but he was expressing the
joy of knowing Samuel is in a better place," Smith said.
Maung P. Htaik came to the United States in 2002, and he died fighting for the country in Afghanistan on the first day of 2011.
"From my understanding from talking to him, I see that he was inspired by the Marines to be brave and strong," Dan Yar wrote of his brother Tuesday in an e-mail. "I am more than sure that he did want to serve his country."
Htaik, 20, died Saturday during combat operations in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
"He has never spoken of being afraid of death and was very quiet and calm," Yar wrote in the e-mail. "There are a lot of things, but I just want to say he was brave, real brave.
Yar said his brother was very quiet, and that he liked to play games on the computer and enjoyed drawing.
A 2008 graduate of Smithsburg High School, Htaik was an infantryman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Marine Corps. A news release issued Tuesday did not provide any additional details of his death, which the Department of Defense said Monday was in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Htaik joined the Marines in February 2009, his brother said. He was promoted to lance corporal April 1, 2010, and deployed to Afghanistan in July, the Marine Corps said.
Htaik's family left Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 1998, and moved to Singapore, Yar said. The family came to the United States in 2002 because their father wanted them to be able to get a better education, Yar said.
Htaik was a naturalized United States citizen, Yar said.
"He was interested in the military. I'm not sure why he chose the Marines," Grace Priest, the registrar at Smithsburg High School, said Tuesday. He was a student aide in the school's guidance office during his senior year, she said.
"He was a quiet young man. A nice young man," Priest said. "He would do anything you asked him to do," she said.
Htaik, who was known as Sam at school, transferred to Smithsburg from Frederick County during the second semester of his sophomore year, Priest said.
Htaik made the distinguished honor roll in his senior year at Smithsburg, according to Herald-Mail archives.
Among the photos Yar provided of his brother was one of Htaik shaking hands with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Htaik met Giuliani when the USS New York, an amphibious transport, was commissioned, Yar said.
Htaik's Marine Corps decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Marine Corps said.
His body was returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday, the Department of Defense said.
Like his parents, Hla and Florie Shwe of Hagerstown, Htaik was a devout Christian, his brother said. Htaik attended Gateway Ministries in Williamsport, Yar said.
Funeral services will be Saturday at Frederick Christian Fellowship Church, 10142 Hansonville Road, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the viewing from 10 to 11 a.m., Yar said.
The family would like Htaik to be buried in
Arlington National Cemetery, but has not yet received burial information
from the Department of Defense, Yar said.
HTAIK, MAUNG PHYO THU
Posted: 20 January 2011 Updated: 12 February 2011 Updated: 22 March 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, March 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, January 2011