Wednesday, August 12, 2015
CSM (retired) Tabata died Aug. 10 at UNC Hospitals.
It's been said that every Special Forces engineer on active duty was trained by him.
In 2004, Thomas "Pappy" Jones, a retired sergeant major, who had worked with Mr. Tabata for years, told The Fayetteville Observer that there's an old saying in Asia that after a man dies, his spirit lives as long as somebody remembers his name.
"If that saying is true," he said, "... Ernie Tabata is going to be with us for an awful long time to come."
Mr. Tabata, 84, was a combat engineer in the Korean War and belonged to a covert special operations unit that went behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.
He began his military career in June 1946 as a volunteer in the Hawaii Territorial Guard. Two years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Hawaii. He was among the first American soldiers sent to South Korea to repel the invasion by the North.
In Sept. 1952, Mr. Tabata received an honorable discharge but re-enlisted in January 1955. For the next six years, he served as a paratrooper in the 82nd and 11th Airborne Divisions.
He became a triple volunteer in January 1961, when he applied for duty with the Special Forces.
In Dec. 1981, after 30 years of active-duty service, Mr. Tabata returned to the Special Forces Training Group as a civilian instructor and taught Special Forces engineers.
On Aug. 2, 2013, he was honored at a ceremony where he returned from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as an 18C instructor. Mr. Tabata gave 59 years to government service, the school said.
News of Mr. Tabata's death spread quickly through social media.
"He was a hell of a soldier and a fine gentleman," a post from the Chapter XV Special Forces Association, Green Berets said.
"Ernie is an SF (Special Forces) legend," Jeff Forker wrote on the Special Forces Memorial Wall Facebook page.
Many others wrote messages about Mr. Tabata, including David Randall, who wrote, "He was a gift to this career field and it's hard to believe he's gone now."
Article by Nichole Manna of the Fayetteville Observer.