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MILITARY DEATHS

Army National Guard Spec. Mike T. Sonoda Jr., 34, of Fallbrook; Killed in Baghdad Bombing

October 16, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

During his off-hours, Mike Sonoda Jr. escaped into the world of science fiction and history, which he devoured in such large quantities that his buddies and commanding officers often ran out of books to give him.

"He could read a 300-page book in a day," recalled Maj. Daniel Markert, one of Sonoda's National Guard commanders. "And he would always come back for more."

The same could be said of the dangerous patrols he would undertake in Baghdad as a specialist of the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, stationed in Fullerton.

Sonoda often was the first to volunteer to go on combat patrol duty, Markert said. He had a knack for picking out improvised explosives, keeping his buddies out of harm's way.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 04, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 78 words Type of Material: Correction
Military obituary -- The obituary for Mike Sonoda Jr. in the Oct. 16 California section said he joined the California Army National Guard two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He joined in 1999. It also said he worked for the U.S. Postal Service; he worked for UPS. In addition, the obituary said his first deployment to Iraq began in January; it began in February. And his father's name is Takeshi Sonoda, not Mike Sonoda Sr.

"He was the kind of guy the younger soldiers would look up to and the older sergeants could rely on," Markert said. "He was a real spirit of the platoon."

The 34-year-old Fallbrook resident died Sept. 22 in the Iraqi capital after a homemade bomb detonated near his armored personnel carrier. Sonoda was the only soldier killed in the explosion.

"He was my big brother and my hero.... Our entire family is so proud of his service," said Sonoda's sister, Irene, describing her brother in a statement as "very caring and generous, inquisitive and dedicated."

It was the third military assignment for Sonoda, who joined the Army in 1995 and served until late 1997 as a parachute rigger in the 325th Airborne in Vicenza, Italy.

He later served in the California Army National Guard, joining up two days before terrorists flew airliners into the Pentagon and New York City's World Trade Center. He served in Kuwait until March 2002.

His first deployment to Iraq began in January, and he was due to rotate back to the United States early next year.

Sonoda, who was described by his military buddies as a "computer geek," worked as a hazardous materials inspector for the U.S. Postal Service.

In an Internet tribute to Sonoda, his comrades in arms said he loved three things: "to smoke, sometimes like a train; read sci-fi books; and he loved Japanese cartoons."

"He didn't deserve to die," the tribute added, "and he especially didn't deserve to die like this."

Sonoda is survived by his parents, Mike Sr. and Emiko, and his sister.

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