Loss of a Ranger: Sai Tway (Shine)

Pekhon, Shan State, Burma

Dear friends and family,

We lost another Ranger. This is very heartbreaking for us, and it took us some time just to know what to say. Sai Tway, also know as Shine, was killed on 13 April 2024, by a Burma military airstrike as he tried to rescue people in Pekhon, southern Shan state. Our daughter, Suuzanne, who knew him well, wrote this poem. I think it sums up well how we all feel as we look for the words and photographs to honor Sai Tway and show his character. It is a process that we are familiar with as we have lost many Rangers, but it still breaks our hearts every time.

A Portrait of Shine

By Suuzanne Eubank

I don’t wanna find photos of you 

I don’t want to dig through my phone to find your best angles 

Moments that captured the essence of you

And all of your bright expressions 

The way you laughed in the face of tomorrow, 

And put yourself on the line to save people from sorrow 

Your light was so bright 

You eclipsed the darkness 

And with that same light 

Stayed strong through hardships 

How could I ever take a photo of you

That would truly justify your presence 

Your smile so big and bright 

That little bit of sass in your eyes 

I get this feeling nowadays 

That I need to capture photos of my friends in their best light 

So that when they’re gone their memorial will be right 

But still, I’m gut-wrenched with your void 

And the lack of videos of your joy 

See the videos I have are of you behind the lens 

And that represents your heart 

 Focused in, and lending a hand 

A friend to all 

Always eager to serve 

Yet never losing your charm 

Especially with your sassy words 

But I’ll keep looking for photos of you 

Even though it makes me cry 

Because you are too precious 

To not share your smile

Sai Tway was single and joined the Rangers two years ago. He was a member of the Shan State Revolutionary Youth (SSRY) and even before he joined FBR he was well-known for his infectious smile and bravery. He is the eldest of three sons. Right after he was killed, we were able to contact his parents to tell them how he died saving others and how much he means to us; how sad and devastated his loss made us feel. His mother said, “It’s ok. I, myself sent him to the bus station because he said he wanted to join the revolution.” We told her we will do our best to take care of them, and that Sai Tway’s death was not in vain.

We first met Sai Tway two years ago on the battlefield. Right away his bravery was obvious: he was running toward danger to help evacuate wounded soldiers and civilians out of direct Burma Army fire. But when he came to the Rangers, we discovered his joyful spirit. It seemed like he never lost his smile or stopped cracking jokes. He always had something funny to say, and never let anyone take themselves too seriously, especially me! He was loved by all on our team. We depended on him for his quick reaction with a camera, his big heart for leading children in Good Life Club (GLC) programs, and his selfless bravery at the front lines dodging machine gun fire, mortars, and airstrikes, to help people in need. He survived multiple battles so it is hard to accept that he really is gone this time. It is a great shock to us, but we know he gave his life trying to save people. He gave everything for love and that is eternal. We told his family we will do our best to take care of them, and that his death was not in vain

My favorite moments with Sai Tway were watching him leading kids, helping them laugh in the middle of the conflict. We would find children huddled in their hiding place, and he would start singing, dancing and taking part in plays. You could see the kids leave behind the fears and difficulties for a little while. Sai Tway was a natural leader and yet he also knew how to be a team player. We will miss his leadership and support very much. He earned two silver stars for valor and two wounded crosses for wounds suffered in action. We are proud to announce he will be awarded the FBR medal of honor for his actions on 13 April 2024, for sacrificing his life so that others could live.

In talking with my family and with his team, we all felt at a loss of what to say, and what to do. His loss made us stop and pray and ask God if there was another way? Is what we’re doing making any real difference? Especially when we lose such close friends? Can we handle this? Is it what God wants for us? Is there any other way to stop the evil tearing Burma apart?

As we prayed about these questions, feeling numb and sad, slowly an answer came. We were reminded that Sai Tway is with God now. And that God wants His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus gives us freedom to choose which side we’re going to be on. Sai Tway has chosen the side of freedom, love, truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Nobody wants to die for these things, we want to live for them. But because of evil in this world and people who use their freedom to choose to do evil, some people will die even if they are trying to do good. I know of no other way but to try to serve God, and try to make the world a more loving place.

Sai Tway’s and others’ sacrifices are not in vain. We have seen throughout history that people willing to give their lives for others do make a difference. Countries, as impossible as it might seem at times, do change. Burma is already changing and Sai Tway’s acts of love are part of that change. And we believe because of the love of Jesus, we will see Sai Tway in heaven. Last month, as we completed a mission in his area, we prayed together and hugged each other. We said our goodbyes, looked each other in the eye, and said I love you. I believe we will all get to hug Sai Tway in eternity one day. Until then we will hold on to God and each other. Thank you for being in this with us.

As you can probably tell, Sai Tway was very well loved by many in FBR. Below, after several more photos, are several messages from others that wanted to honor him and say goodbye.

Dave, family, and the Free Burma Rangers

Sai Tway (his ranger name),

known to me as Shine, was a good friend. He never hesitated to make a joke or smile. He was quick to correct my pronunciation on any to all Burmese songs, then would laugh when I tried to sing one word correctly for the 20th time. To this day the memory of him teaching me Myaw Lint Chat Ta Sone Ta Yar by Ni Ni Khin Zaw is fresh in my mind. I remember I asked him if it would be a good song to sing, and he said, “yah this is a great song, and with your voice, just like Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein. It’s very good.” Every time I sang the song in the car driving to class I thought of his face and his smile.

The lyrics, “Even without guaranteed love from you, I will continue to hope, I am happy through my sacrifice, we can overcome every difficulty with the greatest love” remind me of his sacrifice today, how he’s given all of himself for the love of people and freedom. Shine was so brave, most of my pictures of him are of him driving to the frontline to help villagers running from Burma military attacks. He was an incredible ranger, team member, videographer, and photographer. I miss him but I know he was doing what he loved to do, something he believed in, and that is not a bad way to go. I know God is happy to have him and I know he’ll keep heaven busy with all his energy. Love you Shine, I’ll see you in God’s timing.

Sahale Eubank

This photo was taken when the advance students greeted Ross and I at the river and had to walk all the way back to camp with us. 

Sai Tway was carrying the starlink and loved on us by taking the extra weight of a sack of “galawa potatoes” still smiling all the way. 

I miss him very much.

Praying for his family and all the rangers. He was deeply loved.

Eirenee Pospisil