Friday, February 08, 2008

Army Spc. Michael T. Manibog

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Michael T. Manibog, 31, of Alameda, Calif.

Spc. Manibog was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Feb. 8, 2008 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Sgt. Timothy P. Martin, Staff Sgt. Jerald A. Whisenhunt and Sgt. Gary D. Willett.

Michael Manibog joined the Army to improve his life and that of his son. The single father from San Leandro, who had hung around with the wrong crowd in the past, believed that signing up for the military would put him on the right track, friends said.

Manibog deployed to Iraq for the first time about two months ago. The 31-year-old Army specialist was one of four soldiers killed Friday when their vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device in Taji, in the Sunni Triangle 20 miles north of Baghdad, the Defense Department said.

Manibog, a 1996 graduate of San Leandro High School, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

Friends remembered him Tuesday as a dedicated soldier, a devoted father to his 9-year-old son, Terrell, and the person guaranteed to be the life of any party.

"He was very loud - his voice . . . carried across the room, and he always joked around with everyone," said Carla Dorotheo, 30, of Hayward. "I will always remember him as being the comedian of the group. He made people smile, and he cared genuinely about his friends."

Manibog joined the Army in his 20s because he wanted his son to be proud of him, Dorotheo said. "He also felt that this was the change he needed to become a better person and to help out his country," she said.

Erwin Rodrillo, 32, of Milpitas said Manibog was the reason he met his wife. Rodrillo had just returned from Iraq in 2004 after his second tour there as a Marine. Manibog took him to Dave and Buster's restaurant and bar in Milpitas. Rodrillo saw a pretty woman but was intoxicated, so he asked Manibog to forward a note to her on his behalf.

"I gave it to Mike and said, 'Hey, Mike, I'd really appreciate it if you gave this piece of paper to the lady,' and now we're married," Rodrillo said.

He said both he and his friend had "made some wrong decisions in our lives. We took the wrong path, just hanging out with the wrong crowd doing stupid things." The military was a way for them to put that behind them, Rodrillo said.

Gil Cuevas, 31, of San Leandro said that although he didn't support the war in Iraq, he fully backed his friend's decision to serve in the military. "If it's going to put him in a better spot from where he was before, I'm happy for him," Cuevas said.

Cuevas agreed that Manibog "loved to party. He was the loudest one in the crowd whenever he goes out."

Manibog enjoyed going to clubs and liked hip-hop music. He enjoyed pretending to be a security guard at clubs, Cuevas said, laughing.

Army Spc. Michael T. Manibog was killed in action on 2/8/08.

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