SAMOAN SOLDIER DAVID TOOMALATAI DIES IN IRAQ

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, February 1) - The Iraq war has taken another Samoan casualty, this time a young man by the name of David T. Toomalatai, the youngest Samoan to die in Iraq.

The 19-year-old Toomalatai, who held the rank of private first class, was killed Saturday in Taji, Iraq.

He, along with two other soldiers in his unit died of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during convoy operations, the U.S. Defense Department announced yesterday.

The trio were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas with To'omalatai's home of record, in Long Beach, Calif.

David is the fourth of seven children born to Vailala and Sally Toomalatai, originally from Matautu and Lotofaga, Samoa who are currently residing in Long Beach, Calif.

Mrs. Toomalatai said her son's death came as a shock to his family, friends and church members.

"Everyone liked David. He was a very social and loving person," Mrs. Toomalatai told Samoa News in a telephone interview from Long Beach yesterday. "My son was friendly, a loving person, very active in church and always very good with our family."

Toomalatai was born in Carson, Calif., and attended Banning High School in Wilmington, Calif., where he was "a great football player," said Mrs. Toomalatai.

"It's a very sad day for our family," she said, adding that relatives in Samoa have been informed about David's death.

Fort Hood spokesperson Nancy Bourget told Samoa News in a telephone interview from Texas that Toomalatai joined the Army in December 2005 as a health care specialist and was deployed to Iraq on October last year.

She said the current awards on file for Toomalatai are the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal.

Congressman Faleomavaega said in a statement that it is always difficult and a very sad time whenever we hear about our men and women in uniform killed in war, but that is especially so to the parents and loved ones of David Toomalatai.

Upon receiving the sad news, the congressman called the Toomalatai's parents in Long Beach to offer his condolences on the passing of their loving son.

"In my conversation with Mr. Vailala Toomalatai, I extended my heartfelt and deepest sympathy to him and his wife and family members," Faleomavaega said. "I also offered my prayers for them during their moment of grief."

"David's selfless service and sacrifice resembles the devotion and commitment by his fellow Samoan brothers and sister that have died before him in defense of our country and safeguarding the countless freedoms we enjoy each day," said Faleomavaega. "I pray that our Heavenly Father will comfort them and members of their family during this most difficult of time."

Mrs. Toomalatai said her son's remains arrived back in Washington D.C. Tuesday and funeral plans are pending while the military complete its investigation. She said the funeral service will probably be later next week.

On his myspace.com page, Mrs. Toomalatai said he has a "beautiful baby boy name Damien, who's my life." He describes himself as "pretty chilled" and laid back for the most part.

The Daily Breeze, a Long Beach newspaper, reports that Toomalatai joined the Army to provide a future for his girlfriend, Daniela Perera, who is Damien's mother.

The Daily Breeze says To'omalatai wasn't troubled about going off to war.

"He wasn't worried," Perera is quoted by the newspaper as saying "I kept telling him, 'Don't go.' He said, 'It's going to be good in the long run. When I come back, it will be all good. I'm going to school.'"

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