Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Abraham Tarwoe

Providence, Rhode Island

April 12, 2012

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
25 Marine L/Cpl

2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Camp Lejeune, North Caroline

 Killed while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Honoring Our Armed Forces: Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe
4/25/2012 — 
Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise today, along with my colleague, the Presiding Officer, to pay tribute to Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe, a Rhode Islander who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

On April 12, Lance Corporal Tarwoe was killed while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A memorial service will be held on Saturday in Rhode Island to honor his selfless sacrifice, and he will then be laid to rest in his native home of Liberia.

When he was about 7 years old, Lance Corporal Tarwoe left Liberia and started a new life in the United States. He was one among thousands of Liberians who came to the United States seeking safety from a civil war. We are proud that so many of these brave individuals and their families now call Rhode Island their home, and our State continues to be enriched by this strong community.

Lance Corporal Tarwoe enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in June 2009. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, where he was serving as a mortarman and had additional duties as a military dog handler.

Each generation of Americans is called upon to protect and sustain our democracy, and among our greatest heroes are the men and women who have worn the uniform of our Nation and have sacrificed for our country to keep it safe and to keep it free.

It is our duty to protect the freedom they sacrificed their lives for through our service, our citizenship. We must continue to keep their memories alive and honor their heroism, not simply by our words but by our deeds as citizens of this great country.

Today, our thoughts are with Lance Corporal Tarwoe's loving family in Liberia, Famatta and Abraham Kar, his brother Randall, his wife Juah, and his son Avant, and all his family, friends, and his comrades-in-arms. We join them in commemorating his sacrifice and honoring his example of selfless service, love, courage, and devotion to the Marines with whom he served and the people of Afghanistan he was trying to help.

Lance Corporal Tarwoe is one among many Rhode Islanders who have proven their loyalty, their integrity, and their personal courage by giving the last full measure of their lives in service to our country in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere around the globe.

Today, we honor his memory and the memory of all those who have served and sacrificed as he did. He has joined a distinguished roll of honor, including many Rhode Islanders who have served and sacrificed since September 11, 2001.

All of these men and women who have given their lives in the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq have done a great service to the Nation. It is a roll of honor. It is a roll that Lance Corporal Tarwoe joins, and it should be for us a roll not just to recognize and remember but to recommit, to try in some small way to match their great sacrifice for this great Nation.

In Lance Corporal Tarwoe's situation, it also should remind us that this young man, born in Liberia, who came as a child and to Rhode Island, demonstrates to us all that being an American is about what is in your heart, not necessarily where you were born or what language you may have spoken as a child. It is about believing in America--believing so much that you would give your life to defend the values that we so much cherish.

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise today, along with the Presiding Officer, my colleague, Senator Whitehouse, to pay my respect and honor the life of Sergeant Maxwell R. Dorley, a distinguished and beloved member of the Providence Police Department, who passed away tragically in the line of duty.

Sergeant Dorley's personal story, which began in Liberia is another example of the extraordinary contribution of the Liberian community to the State of Rhode Island, along with recently deceased Lance Corporal Tarwoe of the U.S. Marines. Sergeant Dorley's story is also another example of inspiration and hope for all of us.

At the young age of 7, Sergeant Dorley followed his aunt, Hawa Vincent, to Providence, beginning his own chapter of the American dream, and he wrote a remarkable chapter in that great story of America. Sergeant Dorley attended Mount Pleasant High School, and not only graduated at the top of his class earning admission to Brown University, but he also befriended Kou, who would become his wife and partner for 27 years. His love and devotion to his family was so deep and genuine that when their first child, Amanda, was on her way, Sergeant Dorley declined admission to Brown University and began working four jobs so he could support his new family.

At this early stage in his life, Sergeant Dorley chose to prioritize his new family over himself. And as he did so many times throughout his life, Sergeant Dorley thought about others before he thought of himself. His example of hard work--four jobs to support the family--is the story of America, coming here from someplace else, working as hard as you can to build a strong family and contribute to a strong community.

From helping his family pay off the notes on their cars to gathering old and used police uniforms for his fellow police officers in Liberia, Sergeant Dorley exemplified the best of what we expect from our public servants--a deep commitment to serving others for the greater good.

While terribly tragic, Sergeant Dorley passed away last Thursday doing what he knew best, helping others by trying to come to the aid of his Providence Police Officers, Edwin Kemble and Tony Hampton, who were trying to break up a fight.

Today, we offer our deepest condolences, and our thoughts are with all of Sergeant Dorley's family, friends, and colleagues, but especially with his mother Miatta who is traveling from Liberia, his wife Kou, and daughter Amanda, his son Robert, and all of his beloved family. We join them in celebrating Sergeant Dorley's many contributions.

Despite his short time with us, he gave us much, and we honor his memory and his service to the people of Providence as a Providence Police Officer.

The loss of Sergeant Dorley is also a reminder of the great sacrifice and incredible courage of all of our Police Officers who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to preserve the peace and stability that allows us to enjoy our own lives. Today, we especially salute the service and sacrifice of Sergeant Dorley, and we honor the legacy he leaves of serving others and prioritizing the greater good over his own personal interest. We have indeed lost a remarkable individual and a great example of selfless service. Again, we offer our deepest condolences to his family.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Marine Corps Forces Africa
U.S. Africa Command
USAG Stuttgart, Germany
A Long Road Home For Liberian US Marine
By U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Lazane | | May 23, 2012

FLEHLA, Liberia -- In 1998, during the Liberian civil wars, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, then age 12, fled the violence of his home country, searching for peace. 
“For many reasons, he didn’t want to leave Liberia; he had his friends and his life, but he saw the opportunity that existed in the U.S., so he went,” Tarwoe’s uncle, John Kar said. “We all saw the potential that existed for him in the United States.”

Unfortunately, Tarwoe’s return to his native land would occur under far more solemn circumstances.

Tarwoe, of Providence, R.I., and a Marine with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Camp Lejeune, N.C., lost his life from wounds sustained in combat in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 12. In a service befitting his status as a hero, Tarwoe was laid to rest with full military honors in his home village of Flehla, Bong County, Liberia, May 17.

“Family was very important to him, so he made it clear that if he were to die, he wanted his body to come back to where he was born,” said Kar. “We have a family cemetery, and he wanted to continue to be a part of the family when he passed away.”

Tarwoe had plans to return to Liberia this summer following his redeployment, which would have been the first trip back to his home since he left.

So it was instead on this day, under a constant threat of rain, that a group of more than 200 people gathered on his family’s property to celebrate Tarwoe’s life in a midday ceremony.

Attendees were a mix of local villagers, friends and family from the United States and Liberia and a contingent of fellow service members currently stationed in Liberia. Many arrived hours before the ceremony, finding places to calmly sit and reflect upon the life of a man they knew as a little boy, a boy that had been returned to them, all grown up.

The group crowded under a makeshift canopy, a temporary structure made up of low-hanging branches intertwined to make a thatched roof held up by bamboo poles. Some attendees were able to sit on benches made of two-by-fours and cinder block.

When the seats ran out, the people stood.

There were many standing. Following remarks from friends, family members and U.S. military representatives, Marine Corps casket bearers slowly brought Tarwoe across the rocky, uneven terrain to his final resting place.

“We all have the desire to return to our home someday,” said Isaac Padmore, Tarwoe’s uncle and, as an ordained minister, the officiator of the ceremony.

“Sometimes people return home sooner than others, but we’ll all get there eventually, and when we do, Abraham will be waiting for us.”

Being a member of the U.S. Marine Corps was not the first thing on his mind when Tarwoe arrived in the United States in 1998. Upon arrival, Tarwoe moved in with family members; first in Providence, R.I., then later, in Newark, N.J., as his parents were not able to come with him to America.

“The first couple of months were difficult for him, because he really missed home and the people he left,” Kar said. “But he adjusted because he met his uncles, cousin and aunts and realized everything would be fine.”

In high school, Tarwoe excelled in sports, particularly track and field and football, where he played running back for Westside High School.

“He was an absolute beast, a monster on the field,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Wiles, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., a fellow Liberian who, while growing up in Willingboro, N.J., first met Abraham in high school when their teams played each other.

“He ran with grace and elegance. Being an opponent, I remember standing on the sidelines and saying, ‘Man, I can’t stand that guy’.” When not engaged in school activities, Tarwoe enjoyed watching and playing football and soccer, and being with friends and his family.

“He had this contagious smile,” said Wiles. “He was basically never upset. If something happened, he would forget it in like ten minutes. He was a happy guy.”

Following graduation, Tarwoe returned to Rhode Island, where he moved back in with his uncle and began to think about his future. A short time later, Tarwoe met a few old friends who had joined the Marines; a chance encounter that would ultimately change his life.

“Abraham came to me and my older brother one day and said he had met some friends who were Marines and decided that he wanted to be one as well,” said Kar, who had taken steps to become a U.S. Navy officer himself when he was younger.

“He said, ‘Uncle John, I want to follow in your footsteps in trying to join the military, but I want to do so with the Marines.’”

“I told him it was a great idea, that if he wanted to be a Marine, he should go all in for it, and he immediately began working toward that goal.”

Tarwoe joined the Marines in 2009.

“He loved being a Marine,” said Kar. “Abraham’s greatest joy was being a Marine and being a man who loved his family. That is his legacy.”

It was at his first duty station in North Carolina when Tarwoe happened upon an old gridiron foe, now a fellow Marine: Wiles, who was a supply administration clerk on Camp Lejeune. The two were now no longer rivals, but brothers in arms, dedicated to serving their country. Wiles and Tarwoe developed a close relationship centered on shared backgrounds and interests.

“We were both dedicated family men, first and foremost,” Wiles said. “We just grew closer together because neither of us had family in North Carolina; it was just me and my wife and he and his wife and son.”

“Abraham loved the Marine Corps,” said Wiles. “He absolutely loved it. We planned on re-enlisting together and hopefully taking our families to Okinawa. He wanted to be a Marine forever.”

The first thing Tarwoe did upon deploying to Afghanistan was call his friend Wiles, who had deployed with his unit several months prior to Tarwoe’s arrival. They never met up in the combat zone, being stationed at different forward operating bases, but they were able to email and talk on the phone and over Internet video chat. Wiles was back in North Carolina when he found out Tarwoe had died.

“When I got the call, I hung up out of shock,” Wiles said. “I was convinced they’d made a mistake. My wife tells me every day that she can’t believe he’s gone.”

Friends and family members of fallen service members sometimes struggle to define their emotions towards the “ultimate sacrifice,” where someone they love is killed-in-action fighting for his country. Tarwoe’s friends and family don’t have that problem.

“I am a United States citizen; I understand what we stand for as Americans; we stand for peace and that all men should have equal rights. So, I don’t feel bad, I feel honored,” said Kar.

“His service has brought great honor to our family. I know he died for the right cause. I know he knew it, and I know he is in a better place.”

Tarwoe leaves behind many friends and loved ones, including his wife, Juah, and 18-month old son, A.J., of Providence, R.I., his parents, Abraham and Famata Kar, of Flehla, Bong County, Liberia, and hundreds of other family members. 

“Initially, Abraham and I joined the U.S. Marine Corps to serve a nation that had given us so much,” Wiles said. “I hope that the Marine Corps will grant me another enlistment in order for me to carry on Abraham’s legacy.”

Though he may be gone, those who know him can rest easy, knowing that Abraham finally made it home.

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