YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Army Spc. Doonewey White, 26, Milpitas; killed in Iraq bombing

June 17, 2007|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Army Spc. Doonewey White of Milpitas, Calif., and his fiancee were expecting their first child in October. Their wedding was planned for January, after his tour in Iraq was scheduled to end.

But on May 28, a roadside bomb exploded near White's vehicle in Baghdad. White, 26, died of his injuries a day later in Balad, north of the capital. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas.

White was buried Monday at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.

A week after his death, Sourisone Sananikone received a heartfelt letter from her fiance, written a day before he was fatally wounded.

"He wrote that all he thinks about is the baby and that he can't wait to come home," said Sananikone, who lives in Fremont, Calif. "He said he's going to be the best daddy for our child and that he hopes I'm eating well. He said, 'I can't wait to see how the baby is going to look. I know it's going to be beautiful like you.' "

Sananikone, 22, met White six years ago and began dating him two years later.

"There was something about him that stood out from other guys," she said. "He was so genuine, he had a such a big heart and he was so sweet. He always put my needs before his."

White was 6 years old when his family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Relatives said his parents' broken marriage contributed to his struggle to find a focus in life.

During his teenage years, White lived with his mother and two aunts, moving from school to school in the San Jose area.

While at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose, he played linebacker for the football team but eventually dropped out of school.

"He had a rough life growing up," said White's stepbrother, Jason Gillette, 23, of Oceanside.

Sananikone said White was jobless when she began dating him, but that he was "determined to get his life straightened out."

He began working as a driver for a catering company and studying for his general equivalency diploma so he could enlist in the Army. White failed the exam a number of times before finally passing it, Sananikone said.

He joined the infantry in August 2005 and was deployed to Iraq in November.

"We were proud of him joining the Army instead of going in a bad direction," said his aunt Maria White of Pittsburg, Calif., with whom he lived for two years.

"We all knew he'd be going to Iraq, but it seems like he wasn't scared. He wasn't thinking about it being a dangerous place. He believed it was a positive thing for his life."

Gillette, a Navy corpsman, said he wasn't surprised that his stepbrother followed him into the military.

"He always wanted to be G.I. Joe as a kid," he said.

But recently the dangerous conditions in Iraq had begun to take a toll on White, Gillette said, adding, "He was stressed out from seeing a lot of bloodshed and action over there."

In his final letter to his fiancee, White wrote that he was barely sleeping and that his combat missions were lasting five to seven days at a time.

"He said it was getting hot and he was seeing a lot of IEDs," Sananikone said, referring to improvised explosive devices.

Hours before his last mission, White called his fiancee to check on her pregnancy.

"He wanted to see if we were having a girl or boy," she said. "He said he'd call again after he got back from patrol, but I never heard from him again."

In their last phone conversation, Sananikone and White began planning their life after the military.

"We were planning to go to Las Vegas, where it was cheaper and we could afford a house," she said. "I was going to transfer to another community college and he was going to attend college too."

Every time they spoke, Sananikone said, it seemed White was contemplating a different career.

"The last time we talked, he mentioned the Coast Guard," she said. "Before that it was a firefighter and a policeman. The jobs he picked were always dangerous. He always wanted to help people."

Sananikone last saw White for a few weeks in February and expected to see him again in October -- about the time their baby is due -- but his tour was recently extended three months.

"He was frustrated he couldn't get home so we could get married before the baby came," Sananikone said. "He wanted me to see if we could get married online, but I never got the chance to look into it."

Within the last week, Sananikone learned she is having a boy. She will name him Doonewey Jr.


Los Angeles Times Articles