HILO — Family, friends and the Keaukaha community are mourning the death of Kumakani Lee-Ubedei, a Marine lance corporal found dead Saturday in his barracks room in Okinawa, Japan, two days shy of his 21st birthday.
“He comes from a good family, well-respected in the community,” said Patrick Kahawaiolaa, president of the Keaukaha Community Association. “He was a good kid. He was really small. When he told me he was joining the Marines, I couldn’t believe it.”
Lee-Ubedei was a 2015 Hilo High School graduate who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2016. According to a statement from the Marines, he was attached to the Provost Marshal’s Office with Marine Corps Base Camp Butler Headquarters and Support Battalion as part of the Fleet Assistance Program.
His original assignment was as a ground electronics telecommunications and information technology systems maintainer with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
His awards include the Global War on Terrorism medal and the National Defense medal.
Kahawaiolaa said Lee-Ubedei, while small in stature, was a good wrestler who earned his name.
“‘Kumakani’ in Hawaiian means ‘standing in the strong wind,’” he said. Lee-Ubedei was known as “Ku,” which means “standing or upright” and is also the short version of Kuka‘ilimoku, the Hawaiian god of war and prosperity considered the guardian of Kamehameha the Great.
Kahawaiolaa said he was proud when Lee-Ubedei joined the Marines.
“I was there when he took off; I was there when he returned. I celebrated with his parents. He was proud and wore his Marine uniform,” Kahawaiolaa said.
“I just feel for the mother and the father,” Kahawaiolaa said. “My heart hurts whenever a young son or daughter of Keaukaha passes.”
Condolences were posted on social media.
“My heart, my prayers, blessing and love goes out to this beautiful family … my condolences. RIL,” said one individual on Facebook.
“I love you Kumakani Lee-Ubedei,” said another.
Lee-Ubedei’s mother, Mona Ubedei, asked on Facebook that the family’s privacy be respected to give them the chance to grieve.
According to the Marines, the cause of Lee-Ubedei’s death is under investigation.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.