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Veterans honored during a special ceremony last Friday

Local vets and their families joined the rest of the nation in honoring all veterans last Friday during a special ceremony hosted at the VA Memorial in Tafuna. [photo: AF]

American Samoa joined the rest of the nation in honoring veterans during a special ceremony held at the VA Memorial in Tafuna last Friday morning. Government leaders, veterans, families and friends came together to pay tribute to the sacrifices of the men and women in the US Armed Forces.

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, on behalf of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who is off-island, delivered the special remarks. Also present were Fono leaders, traditional leaders and cabinet members — some of whom are veterans.

Military retirees, some dressed in uniform, were also present, along with officers of the American Samoa Army Reserve Unit. The ceremony was organized by the Office of Veterans Affairs headed by VA Officer Mrs. Rosie Tago Lancaster and the Governor’s Office.

Wreaths were laid at the Veterans Monument in Tafuna to honor the service of men and women from the various branches of the US military.

After a warm welcome by HTC Malemo Tausaga to welcome everyone who was in attendance, CCCAS Amanave's Rev. Iese Aasa, a retired Army Staff Sgt., led the service with a prayer, and hymns were sung by his congregation's choir.

Representatives from the VA raised the US and American Samoa flags, as the CCCAS Amanave choir belted out the national anthems.

Presentation of services flags were carried out by representatives from each branch including the U.S Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

During his remarks, Lemanu, a veteran himself, said his heart is filled with joy and high spirits as the territory joins the nation in celebrating the 99th Veterans Day this year, a day to honor families and those who served in the military.

“This is a day we celebrate the service of our national heroes, those people who have given their lives and did something bigger so our families and people can enjoy the freedom and the value of life,” Lemanu said.

Lemanu said Veterans Day for many is a day to reflect, a day to remember, a day of healing, a day to celebrate and meet families and friends, and a day to give thanks.

The Lt. Governor acknowledged the service of a certain veteran, known to many for his service to the government and private sector.

Lemanu said this particular veteran was assigned by the US Coast Guard to be stationed in American Samoa in 1964. After being honorably discharged, he decided to make American Samoa his home and from there, he has served in the private sector, which included manager of the local Bank of Hawaii branch. Currently, he is employed by the ASG in the Treasury Department.

 He is a minister for the Assembly of God Church, and his name is Rev. John Marsh.

Lemanu also acknowledged another son of American Samoa who departed last Friday evening. Auina Solaita, son of Aileen and Anthony Solaita of Pago Pago. He is in Hawai’i for team preparations, before he heads to the US Marine Corps base in San Diego.

The Lt. governor acknowledged the presence of all veterans from the different branches of the US Armed Forces, and especially the American Samoa Gold Star families.

“Today, we honor our veterans. We enjoy the freedom that we have today only because these men and women were willing to step up and be responsible to fight for us, and that’s why we call them heroes.

“We must also not forget those veterans and families who can’t be here amongst us because it pains and hurts them to remember their best,” Lemanu said.

The US Army Reserves fired a gun salute into the air while a bugler, dressed in a USMC uniform, played Taps.