During the funeral service for US Army 1st Lt. Jason Togi of Fagasa Gen. Karbler presented Gold Star lapel pins to family members. The pins are reserved for immediate family of service members killed in combat. [photo: JL]

American Samoa bids farewell to Toa o Samoa, traditional leaders — including three senators — a well known musician, and many dear friends and family in 2013, which also saw the passing of Nelson Mendela, the former president of South Africa, whose death was mourned the world over. Stories about him appeared in hundreds, if not thousands of publications, including American Samoa.
The holiday season is always a difficult time for families whose members are serving in the U.S. military and this year, American Samoa lost one of its own in the Afghanistan conflict.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jason Asootama Togi (who was born on Father’s Day in 1989) died Aug. 26 in Hasan Karez, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. 
The twenty-four year old native of Fagasa was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. The graduate of Samoana High School entered military service in September 2011 as an engineer and was on his first deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, in July 2013.
There were no casualties reported for our Toa o Samoa in Iraq, as the end of 2011 was the official withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country, although there is still a U.S. military presence there, and there are still Samoan soldiers in that country.
The year 2013, which was also the start of the 33rd Legislature, saw the passing of three senators who were serving their first four-year terms in office. While the Fono was busy this year, the deaths of the three senators gave it a mood of sadness throughout the year.
The late senators were remembered when the Fono ended its 2nd Regular Session in late September. Sen. Fa’agata Mano Fa’agata, one of the three senators representing Ma’oputasi county, passed away in June at the age of 61.  Sen. Sua Vaiuli Matautia, one of two senators for Sua County, also passed away in June — at the age of 72, just a month before his 73rd birthday. Sen. Letuligasenoa Soli, one of the two senators for Tualauta county, passed away in August at the age of 81.
In June came the “horrifying” story about Lopeti Lihua, a father of four who was killed by  Arthur “Afa” Blake, who has a history of assault with the justice system. As reported by Samoa News at the time, the victim was assaulted several times with a crowbar, while Lihua’s young son was on the scene at their home in Iliili.
In July this year, a well known musician in both Samoas as well as in the region, Harry Miller, passed away in New Zealand, where he had been born. Harry had been a music teacher at Fa’asao Marist High for several years, and also played music for his church at Fatu o Aiga. He was 59 when he died of cancer.
And in early November, came the very sad news of a young child who was fatally struck by a truck at the Laufou parking lot area.
Other noticeable deaths reported by Samoa News this year:
•            Master wood carver Sven Ortquist, 75, passed away in June in Seattle.
•            Long time dedicated international pioneer for the Baha’i Faith, Mrs. Jane Caulfield Hyman, passed away in September. (Age at the time of passing was not available)
•            High Talking Chief Lauti Simona, who was a director of the Department of Administrative Services during the Tauese Administration passed away in November at the age of 75. He also served as deputy secretary of Samoan Affairs, and was executive director for the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts.
•            Amiogalelei Antonina A’etonu Palelei, who served as the Chief House Clerk (better known as the Secretary to the House of Representatives) for four years, passed away this month at the age of 68.
Samoa News once again expresses our sincere condolences to the families who lost their loved ones this year.


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