U.S. House Passes Resolution To Rename American Samoa Veterans Clinic After Late Congressman

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin served for 26 years in Congress

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 10, 2017) – U.S Rep. Timothy Walz says that the late former Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, during his 26 years in Congress, was committed to the people of American Samoa “and his ever-present smile will never be forgotten”, according to Congressional records.

The Republican congressman from Minnesota has joined Congresswoman Aumua Amata and two other US House members who spoke on the floor late Tuesday calling for passage of a federal measure designating the local Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic the “Faleomavaega Eni Fa’aua’a Hunkin VA Clinic”.

The measure — passed by the House and sponsored by Aumua and co-sponsor by five House members, including Hawai’i Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Northern Mariana Islands Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan - is now with the US Senate for consideration.

In support of the measure, Walz said this “tribute to our fellow colleague, a fellow veteran, our friend Eni, who passed last month, is truly well deserved.”

 “Eni devoted his public life to service, it was clear, ensuring that the unique needs and interests of the people of American Samoa were met in every bill that came through this body,” Walz notes. “For any of us who worked alongside him during those 13 terms, his unfailing commitment to his people and his ever-present smile will never be forgotten.”

When “veterans in American Samoa see Eni's name, it will strike them about what he has done and the work that he did in Congress,” he added.

In his floor statement, Sablan said Faleomavaega was “relentless in his pursuit of this goal so his fellow veterans in American Samoa would no longer have to travel more than 2,000 miles to Honolulu to seek care at a VA facility. It is fitting that it now be named after him.”

“Eni was someone I looked to as a leader,” he said, adding that Faleomavaega was the dean of the Territories Caucus when Sablan entered Congress in 2009. Additionally, Faleomavaega was a “champion of the territories and all of the people in America who are often overlooked and forgotten.”

Sablan recalled that Faleomavaega was also proud of his Samoan culture and cited, what he says “were two things in particular I saw in Eni.”

“First, he had absolutely no hesitation in representing the people of American Samoa and providing glimpses of the culture with the rest of us. He relished the opportunity to wear his lavalava, one of the traditional pieces of clothing,” he said referring to the Samoan ‘ie faitaga worn by men. “He took pride in his traditional tattooing. He never hesitated to sing the songs of his people 8,000 miles away.”

The second lesson Sablan said he learned “from our departed friend was that the responsibilities of a Member of Congress go beyond the parochial concerns of our district.”

He said, “A good Member of Congress takes care of their own people, just as Eni did. A great Member of Congress understands that their people can only thrive when the Nation as a whole is a place of justice and peace,” he said. “Those are the lessons I learned from knowing Eni and for what he taught me, I will forever be grateful.”

In calling for passage of the measure, Guam Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo says naming the local clinic after Faleomavaega “is a fitting way to honor the life and service of my good friend and colleague former Congressman... Faleomavaega” and a “tribute to his service and commitment to veterans in the Pacific region.”

During his 26 years in the House, Bordallo said Faleomavaega “displayed unwavering commitment to addressing a wide range of issues affecting veterans in the Pacific.”

She said. “His efforts directly contributed to increasing the quality of life of veterans throughout the Pacific region.”

“I deeply miss Eni's advice, friendship and compassion for veterans. His passing has created a void for all that have known him. On behalf of the people of Guam, I extend my condolences to his family and the people of American Samoa,” she said. “Our lives are richer for knowing Eni.”

Bordallo extended appreciation to Aumua in putting forward the legislation. “It is a very appropriate way to memorialize an important part of Eni's work on behalf of the people of American Samoa,” she said, adding in Chamorro, “Un dangkulo na si Yu'os ma'ase (or thank you very much), Eni.”

“You are deeply missed, she added.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2017. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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