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Humbled by my brother

Nanise Loanakadavu
Tuesday, April 02, 2013

HE knelt down next to his breakfast table and cried for about five minutes before saying a little prayer.

It was tears of joy, thanking the Lord for the life of his colleague who not only became his friend but family too, Kauata "Fred" Vamarasi Marafono, a son of Fiji who was a legendary warrior with the elite British SAS (Special Air Services).

Fred died peacefully in his sleep in the United Kingdom last Thursday.

Ilisoni Ligairi, a retired SAS permanent staff instructor who served a 20-year stint with the 22 and 21 SAS regiments in Great Britain in 1984, saluted him as the best SAS officer from Fiji. Mr Ligairi and Mr Marafono were friends with other Fijians held in high regard with the SAS, including Oman hero, the late Talaiasi Labalaba, Sekonaia Takavesi and Jim Vakatali.

He saluted Fred for his dedication and commitment to restore democracy and bring unity to the people in the country he served.

Mr Ligairi said it was something mr Marafono was well known for.

Mr Ligairi, 74, tried to contain his emotions during interview with The Fiji Times from his home in Naibalebale in Savusavu yesterday.

"He (Fred) was a hardworking man and God has used him well in his 72 years of life.

"Most people know him as 'the man with a big heart' who over many years has consistently put the service's needs before his own.

"He was a true hero and a great warrior in the finest tradition of military service."

Mr Ligairi said he had known Fred since 1961 when they left Fiji to join the British Army.

He said he was shocked to see him sign up for the job when the British Army came to recruit soldiers "because he (Fred) was at Navuso Agricultural School at that time while I was at Lelean Memorial School".

He said "Fred was a humble man who cared for everyone, especially his close colleagues in SAS heroes Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, Sekonaia Takavesi and Jim Vakatali".

"I remember when we returned to Britain from any tour of duty, we will be hosted at Fred's house with laughter, jokes and lots of reminiscing of when we first arrived in in the United Kingdom.

"No one can be like Fred and I don't know if any soldier in Fiji or in the SAS will live a life similar to his.

"I am glad I had served with him, he was a role model and treated everyone like his family, even the people he served in the Africas and Europe."

However, Mr Ligairi, who is best known as "Hoss" to his SAS Regiment, said it was heartbreaking when not many people in Fiji studied the life of Fred or know what kind of man he was.

He said Mr Marafono was a real legend with the SAS.

He said Labalaba was best man at Fred's wedding while he, Vakatali and Takavesi planned to "dress up like best man at the wedding to surprise Fred".

"I could not ask for anything more than what I have learned from Fred being a key figure in influencing members of the SAS."

Mr Ligairi said Mr Marafono was a man of integrity who inspired many with his leadership skills.

"Goodbye my friend," said Mr Ligairi.

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