KAILUA, Hawaii (WRIC) — The Army identified the body of a former Highland Springs graduate as the soldier who went missing while swimming in the ocean last week.
In a release on Tuesday, the 25th Infantry Division confirmed that the body of Private Saije A. Daniel was found on the shore near Kailua Beach Park on June 2 after he went missing during an off-duty accident on May 31. Daniel, 21, graduated from Highland Springs High School in 2016.
Daniel’s sisters tell 8News the young soldier went in the water to help two women reportedly caught in a rip current.
“When they went back for him they couldn’t find him,” said Korynthian Jones. “I guess he just got caught in it and he couldn’t get himself out.”
Jones is Daniel’s oldest sister. She and middle sister Infinity Daniels explain their youngest sibling had his appendix taken out in May. Now the family is wondering if his surgery played a role in the tragedy.
“Water is a powerful element,” said Jones. “That took a toll on him and then him having surgery probably took a toll on him when he was trying to get the girls out.”
Despite the tragic way he died, Daniel’s sisters say they weren’t surprised to learn he was helping others.
“That’s my brother,” said Jones. “I didn’t expect anything less.”
Daniel entered the service as a field artilleryman in August 2018 and had been assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks since February. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal Ribbon, the Army said.
“In the Army, we consider our greatest asset to be our people. Our Soldiers are what make our Army strong,” said Lt. Col. Scott C. Sinclair, 3-7 Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “The loss of a Soldier is felt deeply in our Army and in our country. With the passing of Private Saije Daniel, we lost not only a teammate but a valued member of the 25th Infantry Division.”
A military official told 8News a memorial for Daniel will be held at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on June 12.
The soldier’s family is waiting to learn when his body will be returned back to Richmond. They tell 8News that’s when funeral arrangements will be made.
8News reached out to Henrico County Public Schools on Tuesday about Daniel’s death.
“I can confirm that Saije Daniel graduated from Highland Springs HS in June 2016. School counselors were made aware over the weekend and have been available this week for any teacher, staff member or student who may have needed someone to talk to,” Henrico County Public Schools’ spokesperson Andy Jenks wrote in an email.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.