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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 9) - Thirty-one-year-old Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Faoa "AP" Apineru, a native of American Samoa, died July 2 from head injuries he suffered during his tour in Iraq two years ago.

Faoa, a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, died at Palo Alto Veterans Hospital where he was undergoing therapy for traumatic brain injury. An improvised explosive device exploded near him during a road-clearing mission in Iraq in May 2005.

"This is one of the most difficult times for me and my family," his mother, Tiute Apineru said yesterday from Salt Lake City, Utah. "My son joined the military because he wanted to and he died for his duty in the military."

Faoa's only sister, Sulu, said her brother was very shy and quiet compared to her and her brother Selemaea. She said Faoa was a very humble individual.

Faoa was born in American Samoa, when his parents were serving as religious leaders of the Methodist Church in Fagatogo. The family relocated to Samoa for service to the church and Faoa attended school there. He is the youngest of three children.

Faoa attended Wesley College at Levaula, Samoa and later Avele College, where he graduated. He decided to visit his older brother, Selemaea, who was in the states, said Tiute.

While in the states, Faoa came across a recruiting post and decided he wanted to join the Marines, said his mother.

"My son called to tell us sometime in July 1997 and said this is what he wants, to join the military," she said.

His mother said when they questioned him about it, he told them that if others can do it, he can do it too.

"We told him not to forget to pray," she said.

Shortly after joining the Marines, his father passed away.

Faoa was promoted to staff sergeant in 2004 before heading to Iraq.

In Iraq, Faoa worked as a communications chief for the Iraqi cities of Al-Walid and Trebil. Then in May 2005, Faoa suffered serious brain injuries from an explosion.

"I felt like I had been electrocuted," Apineru is quoted by the military news service as saying about the incident. "It all happened so fast. I felt an enormous pain in my head and everything went blank. I just closed my eyes and prayed because I didn't want to die."

Apineru's only sister, Sulu, said that when military officials showed up at their door steps two years ago, "we all thought - oh my God, he died."

"But the officials said he survived but was in serious condition. We were very thankful," Sulu said from Salt Lake City.

From Iraq, Apineru was flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and after eight days of being unconscious, he finally regained consciousness, the National Disabled Veterans said. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and in June 2005 was transferred to Palo Alto where he continued therapy.

As his condition improved, Faoa continued to keep in touch with his family and there was a lot of hope that he was going to make it, his sister said.

"He would call and we would talk on the phone at all hours of the morning. Talking about our families - including my parents family and my mothers family - you know typical Samoan style conversation," she said.

Early this year, Sulu said her brother told her that if anything ever happened to him, to make sure that he has an excellent funeral service.

"I started to joke around so that he would not discuss this issue," she said.

Because he was not married and had no children, Sulu said her older children became Faoa's children. She said he took care of them as his own and made sure their needs were taken care of.

On July 2, the day Faoa died, Sulu said she was outside of her house when he called. She said she tried calling him back but she was unsuccessful in reaching him.

Later that day, military officials showed up at her door to tell the family that Faoa has passed away.

"I just could not believe it. I missed his call and I missed my last chance of talking to my dear brother," Sulu said.

Sulu said the family is trying to be strong. "Even family members are trying to keep us happy, which is very good," she said. "They tell me that the handsomest of the children has passed away."

Faoa will be laid to rest on Friday in Salt Lake City.

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