Pfc. Karina Lau, daughter of Chinese and Mexican immigrants, was 20 years old when the Chinook helicopter she was riding in was shot down on Nov. 2, 2003. She was among 16 Americans killed when a shoulder-fired missile struck the transport helicopter near Fallujah. She is among the nearly 570 U.S. service members who have lost their lives since the start of war a year ago. Wrote Julian Guthrie, "Grief, though, remains. Sharp, heavy and unshakable as the day it arrived in the Lau's lives. It is visible in the father's hands, which shake when showing off photos; the mother's voice that cracks when remembering a happy vacation; weary eyes that have given up on holding back tears."
"The first week we waited for news, for the body,'' said Ruth Lau, Karina's mother, sitting on a blue sofa at a coffee table bearing an American flag folded into a tight triangle and kept in a wood case inscribed, "In loving memory of Karina Lau." Agustin Lau, Karina's father, tracing the outline of his daughter's face in a photo, said, "I had always wanted a daughter. She was my gift." The Laus, who met in 1971 in Mexico and married two years later.
Karina Lau graduated eighth in her high school class of 200, sang the national anthem at the June 2001 graduation ceremony and had a four-year music scholarship to the University of the Pacific in Stockton Two months into college, she enlisted in the Army. After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., she went to Fort Gordon, Ga., and later Fort Hood, Texas, where she graduated at the top of her class in communications and switchboard operations. She left for Iraq on April 7, 2003.
Since her death, teachers and students at Livingston High have raised nearly $25,000 for a Karina Lau music scholarship fund. (Source: Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2004)