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Two-day event marks status as U.S. territory

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, April 17, 2008) - The people and Government of American Samoa are gathering this morning at the Veterans Memorial Stadium to kick off the two-day 2008 Flag Day celebration marking 108 years since American Samoa became a U.S. territory.

The first flag raising ceremony was held April 17, 1900 on Sogelau Hill in Fagatogo. The site is being cared for by nearby families and the village with hopes for federal funding to upkeep this location.

Organizations, groups and schools participating in the parade are to be at the stadium at 6 a.m. today, followed by VIPs and other guests who will begin arriving around 8 a.m. The ceremony is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m., led by master of ceremonies Nanai K.S. Afuola, the deputy assistant secretary of Samoan Affairs.

According to the governor's office, this year's celebration pays tribute to American Samoa's sons and daughters serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and local military veterans.

Local veterans from four branches of the military will raise the United States and American Samoa flags.

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Navy Suiaunoa and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Vaimili Tuialuuluu will hoist the U.S. Flag while the U.S. anthem is played by the visiting U.S. Marine Corps Band.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Iuni Maeva and U.S. Navy SMC Fale Ponausuia will raise the American Samoa flag as the Petesa Uta Youth Band plays the territory's anthem.

After a hymn provided by the CCCAS-Aua choir, Gov. Togiola Tulafono will deliver his annual Flag Day address. The governor will then join military officials of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps for the 'Oath of Enlistment' for new recruits.

The benediction will be delivered by Rev. Viliamu Leilua of the CCCAS- Aua following the parade pass in review and Kanana Fou High School's special performance of the "Samoa Myth of Creation".

During the lunch break, at the stadium, VIPs and guests will be entertained by the Samoa Police Band and the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Today's only siva and pese performance will come from the Manu'atele group.

At 7 p.m. tonight the Flag Day fiafia will take place at the Lee Auditorium. Tomorrow morning nine fautasi compete in this year's race. No participants from Samoa will race this year and Fealofani Samoa hopes to retain its Flag Day fautasi championship title won last year.

After the race, the program returns to the stadium with a brief morning service followed by siva and pese performances from Matautu, Falelatai, Samoa and Alao village in the morning while Salailua, Samoa and Leone villages perform in the afternoon.

The Flag Day organizing committee hopes for the closing ceremony to get underway at 4 p.m. which includes cricket and fautasi race prize giving, traditional Samoan sua presentations, an address by Samoa's representative and the reply from Lt. Gov. Ipulasi A. Sunia.

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