Spc. Hai Ming Hsia
Hometown: Newark, NJ.
Age: 37 years old
Died: August 1, 2006 in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Unit: 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.
Birth: Dec. 7, 1968
Death: Aug. 1, 2006, Iraq
Spc. Hai Ming Hsia, 37, of New York, N.Y.
He was a resident of Chinatown who joined the Army in 2002 to help support his newborn son. He had returned to their Chinatown home on leave in the summer. He didn't want to go back. He already missed out on so much with his son and his life, especially with his son. They were inseparable. He took him everywhere when he was home. He was his life.
He was the only child of Nelida, and Ting Fang Hsia. He worked as a security guard in several Manhattan clothing stores before joining the Army, only recently realized his two goals of joining up and becoming a father. As a teenager about 20 years ago, Hsia picked the name for his son, who has large brown eyes and short hair like his father, naming him for Brandon Lee and Alexander the Great.
6th Infantry Regiment,
1st Armored Division,
Long Island National Cemetery
New York, USA
For Sgt. James Moneypenny, the death of Spc. Hai Ming Hsia was doubly hard to take. Not only was Hsia a fine soldier, but he was so genuinely nice that you couldn’t not like him, Moneypenny said.
It’s easy to call someone a nice guy out of politeness rather than conviction, he said.
“But the truth was, you only had to be around Hsia for 15 or 20 minutes, and you knew how completely innocent he was, and that he was a completely good man,” Moneypenny said.
In platoons, it’s not uncommon for little groups and cliques to form, he said.
“But there was not one person who did not like the guy. That’s why when it happened, when we found out, I thought, ‘Of all the people … the nicest guy in the platoon. The guy giving 100 percent.’”
Hai Ming Hsia died Aug. 1 in Ramadi, killed when a roadside bomb hit his convoy. He was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, and was the 10th 2-6 soldier to die since the unit moved into Iraq earlier this year from Kuwait.
During the memorial Tuesday at Good Samaritan Chapel in Baumholder, Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Gonzalez remembered Hsia as a complicated man who didn’t open up easily. Once he did, Gonzalez said, Hsia talked about his family.
“Pictures of his son (Brandon) were treasures for him,” he said. “When he talked about the family waiting for him back home was to see happiness in his eyes.”
At 37, Hsia was an older soldier, “a renaissance man,” knowledgeable on many subjects from politics to medicine, said Capt. Marvin King III, battalion rear-detachment commander.
In an interview, Moneypenny said that although he’s from Cincinnati and Hsia from New York City, common elements brought them together. Hsia had a 3-year-old son, Brandon, and Moneypenny has a 2-year-old daughter, Savannah. Both were older soldiers, Moneypenny coming back in the Army at 28 after a hiatus, and Hsia joining late at 34.
Both were team leaders.
As more mature men, they’d joke about the younger guys and the mistakes or poor decisions that were really just part of being immature, Moneypenny said.
“We’d see ’em, and we knew. We’d just laugh.”
Maturity — along with phenomenal shooting skills — made his friend a very good soldier, Moneypenny said.
“He was an amazing shot. Everyone knew that in the whole company,” he said, with Hsia once shooting 40 out of 40 possible points while qualifying in “black” conditions — nearly total darkness.
“I saw all my buddies around me, and most failed it. It was the last day, so a lot of people were impatient,” Moneypenny said. “His being a little older, he decided he wasn’t going to do what those guys did. He was going to do it right.”
Most of all, Moneymaker said, he admired Hsia for making it to his mid-30s without being corrupted, “to still be able to say, ‘I am a good man.’ He wasn’t cocky about it. He was just that kind of guy.”