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Iran, Afghanistan wars have claimed 17 American Samoans

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Nov. 12, 2008) - For a crowd of some 200 people gathered yesterday to pay tribute to all military veterans as well as those currently serving, a moment of silence was poignantly observed for the fallen Toa o Samoa of current and past wars at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono was joined by local officials, veterans of all branches of the military including Korean war veteran Congressman Faleomavega Eni and military retiree Fualaau Rosie Lancaster to celebrate Veterans Day at the stadium.

Lancaster read the Veterans Day Proclamation signed Nov. 7 by the governor.

"Our veterans know that in the harshest hours of conflict they serve just and honorable purposes," Lancaster said. "Today, the men and women of American Samoa continue to serve our country in these perilous times of terrorism and war. By their service, they keep America strong and represent our dedication to achieving a lasting peace of the new challenges and threats of the 21st century."

Lt. Col. Mapu Jamias, JROTC program director for DOE and Special Aide to the U.S. Secretary of the Army, read a letter from Army Secretary Pete Geren to the leaders and people of American Samoa on this Veterans Day.

The Secretary thanked service members from American Samoa for their contribution, adding that today a new generation of American heroes has come forth to serve their country.

In his Veterans Day address, the governor said, "This is the day to honor the sacrifice of our veterans — the best of the best."

Since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Togiola said it has not been easy for the territory’s leader to stand and address a gathering such as yesterday’s because of the thoughts of our own sons and daughters serving in these conflicts.

He said no words from a leader can bring comfort to the people of American Samoa, especially families with sons and daughters serving in these two conflicts, because our Toa o Samoa continue to march through the battlefields today.

Togiola says he is not sure whether anyone has kept any specific statistics of Samoans who died in past wars where the United States was involved.

However, he says the current Iraqi and Afghanistan wars have become a very costly one to American Samoa, and expressed his condolences to the families of those Samoan men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as it rages on.

According to the Samoa News count, 17 Samoans soldiers have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and many others wounded. The latest fallen hero was U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Max A. Galea’i, 42, who died June 26, 2008, while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

Togiola asked for prayers from everyone to protect our Toa o Samoa in battle and for their safe return home.

On this Veterans Day, Togiola says American Samoa joins the rest of the United States in honoring the sacrifices of veterans and those active military personnel currently marching through the battle fields of Iraq, Afghanistan and hot spots around the globe.

To the youth, Togiola asked they revisit the importance of military service to American Samoa, even though Samoans have already paid the ultimate sacrifice during the current conflicts.

He said American Samoa has a long history with the military and noted many veterans have returned home to serve the territory and have become distinguished members of the community from Congress, to the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches, to churches and other civic organizations.

Togiola said there are many opportunities available in the military and the military has contributed a lot to the backbone and development of the territory.

After the governor’s address, the CCCAS Pavaiai Choir sang a special song paying tribute to veterans and all Toa o Samoa for their important role. This was followed by a moment of silent to remember and honor all fallen Toa o Samoa.

The benediction and invocation were provided by Rev. Elder Si’ulagi Solomona of the Voice of Christ Full Gospel Church. The crowd also heard from the Petesa Youth Band playing the Armed Forces song as well as United States and American Samoa national anthems.

Following all the speeches, was the pass in review that included the local Army Reserve unit, the territory’s JROTC units and the Petesa Youth Band.

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