KAILUA-KONA — Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, a highly decorated special operations soldier who gave his life for his country, has returned home.
On Sunday, loved ones gathered at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole to welcome the 36-year-old Waikoloa resident who died Aug. 12 from injuries received in an improvised explosive device attack Aug. 7 in Afghanistan. He was honored with a water salute as the plane pulled to the gate for the private, family event.
“He was gone for so long and we rarely seen him, and unfortunately he has to come home this way, but our family is glad that he is back home,” said Reynell Transfiguracion, one of SFC Transfiguracion’s brothers. “He is finally home.”
SFC Transfiguracion was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. At the time of his death, he was a staff sergeant conducting combat patrol operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
He was posthumously promoted to Sgt. 1st Class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.
“Today, we paid our respects as SFC Transfiguracion was brought back home after paying the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our country. His bravery and valor was evident today by seeing those individuals who served with him in the past and present at today’s honorable return,” PTA Commander Lt. Col. Loreto V. Borce Jr. told West Hawaii Today.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his ohana and fellow brothers and sisters in arms,” he continued.
Kona resident Rochelle Potter was one of the passengers on the United Airlines flight from San Francisco that carried Transfiguracion’s remains back to the Big Island.
She said she and the other passengers learned they were accompanying the fallen soldier home after the plane’s doors closed in California. At that time, the pilot shared Transfiguracion’s story and reminded them to be thankful for their freedom and to honor the soldier’s family.
“There was quiet,” she said. “Then, we all applauded. It’s what we could do in that moment. It was one of those moments.”
The opportunity of being on the flight was also close to Potter’s heart as she was returning from her own grandfather’s funeral where he received full military honors.
“My condolences and prayers are with the family in this time of loss,” said Potter. “I felt really honored to be from here and to be on the flight with him.”
SFC Transfiguracion, born May 20, 1982, in Sarrat Ilocos Norte, Philippines, was a 2001 Konawaena High School graduate. Later that year, he enlisted with the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005-06, according to Maj. Beth Riordan, director of public affairs for the 1st Special Forces Command Airborne.
He transferred to active duty in 2008 and was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2008-09. He subsequently was stationed at Schofield Barracks, where he deployed to the Philippines in support of Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines from 2010-11.
Upon his return to the U.S., SFC Transfiguracion attended training in Missouri before being assigned to Fort Polk in Louisiana, where he was selected to serve in the Special Forces. He was eventually assigned to Joint Base Lewis as an engineer sergeant, the release said. His final deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel came in March.
Over the course of his 18-year career, SFC Transfiguracion won a host of awards and decorations, some of which he earned more than once, including the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and Purple Heart.
SFC Transfiguracion is survived by his wife, Edelyn and a son and daughter, parents, brothers, a niece, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Services for SFC Transfiguracion are being finalized. Private services as well as a public service are planned. West Hawaii Today will publish service details as soon as they are received from the family.