Marine Cpl. Kemaphoom A. Chanawongse

Marine Cpl. Kemaphoom A. Chanawongse

Died March 23, 2003 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

22, of Waterford, Conn.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed near Nasiriyah on March 23. He was listed as missing until April 14, when the Defense Department announced his remains had been identified.
Kemaphoom Chanawongse, known to his friends as “Ahn,” came to the United States from Thailand when he was 9. He grew up in Waterford, Conn., with his mother and stepfather, played youth soccer and graduated in 1999 from Waterford High School.

Chanawongse was one of the first casualties of the war. He was listed as missing March 23 during fierce fighting near the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. For weeks, his parents and friends held out hope that he would be among the missing who would come home. More than 200 people attended a candlelight vigil and prayed for his safety. Their hopes died when three Marines and a chaplain visited the flag-draped home of his mother and stepfather, Tam and Paul Patchem. to tell them their son’s remains had been identified. “Everybody in the community had been praying for his safe return. But it was simply was not to be,” said Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., who stayed in close constant touch with the family. “I spoke to them this morning, and his stepfather said that Ahn is now at peace. They were holding out hope, but over the past week-to-ten days they were beginning to realize that the chances of finding him alive were diminished.” Chanawongse had always wanted to be a Marine, his family said. His grandfather was a military man in Thailand Before leaving for the Persian Gulf he created a Web site with photographs of himself in his Marine uniform with the caption: “the Thai import with a baby face.”

USA Today, Associated Press

Family receives medal awarded to Marine killed in Iraq

WATERFORD, Conn. — Relatives of a Marine killed 15 months ago in Iraq were given the U.S. Navy/Marine Achievement Medal in his honor Wednesday during a ceremony at the high school he attended. Students at Waterford High School remembered Cpl. Kemaphoom “Ahn” Chanawongse, a 1999 graduate of the school, during a ceremony celebrating its graduating seniors. Chanawongse, 22, and six of his fellow Marines were killed March 23, 2003, in an ambush in southern Iraq while securing a bridge near Nasiriyah. Chanawongse’s parents, Tan and Paul Pachem, were presented with the Navy/Marine Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguished Device, signifying his “heroic achievement” in battle. “This is a very nice day for me,” Tan Pachem told the Norwich Bulletin before the ceremony. “This is a not a sad day.” Marine Capt. Brian Anderson, the family’s military liaison since Chanawongse was first reported missing in action on March 23, 2003, also presented the family with a triangular framed American flag. The flag was flown over Baghdad by Chanawongse’s unit shortly after major combat ended. The Pachems previously received their son’s Purple Heart award. A $500 scholarship in Chanawongse’s memory was given to Alex Pai.
Tan Pachem spoke proudly of her appreciation of the community support she and her family have received and the importance of the scholarship in keeping the memory of her son alive. The family wants to increase the scholarship to $1,000 in future years. “It is our memory of Ahn,” she said after the ceremony. “This is how our memory of him will live on, as long as we have this scholarship to give. We want to help someone in the community, someone we can help get the education that Ahn had planned to get when he came home, to get his degree.” Chanawongse was born in Thailand and moved to the United States with his family at the age of 9. He attended Waterford High School, where he was an avid soccer player and snowboarder. He was buried with military honors in April 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery.

Associated Press

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