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More Toa O Samoa honored with Gold Star plates

Families of six active duty U.S. military personnel who were killed in the Iraq war were recognized Friday night with Gold Star Family license plates presented by Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who noted the Iraq war has come to an end but the sacrifices of these fallen Toa o Samoa will never be forgotten.

American’s military mission in Iraq officially ended last week with U.S. Armed Forces pulling out of the conflict begun in 2003, which toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. The war claimed close to 4,500 lives of military troops, including Samoan soldiers.

The Gold Star Family license plate presentation was made during the final night of the ASG sponsored Territorial Christmas Program, where the governor thanked families of the fallen heroes who lost their lives in the war for their support and again expressed his condolences for their losses

The governor noted that the war has come to an end and military troops have started to return back to the U.S. but service by U.S. Armed Forces members who died in the conflict will never be forgotten by a very proud nation as well as American Samoa.

He told the audience that the Gold Star Family program, through the issuance of the license plates, provides an opportunity for the community to continue to remember our Toa o Samoa and their families — that a member of that family made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States.

At the opening of the Christmas program Wednesday night, two Army Reservists who were home based in American Samoa were recognized.

Families of those fallen soldiers presented the Gold Star license plate Friday night included the parents of U.S. Army Spc. Farao Kevin Letufuga, the first Samoan casualty of the Iraq war.

• Letufuga, 20, died Aug. 5, 2003 while performing guard duty in Mosul. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.

• Army Staff Sgt. Salamo J. Tuialu’ulu’u, 23, was killed Dec. 4, 2004  in Mosul, when the vehicle he was riding in came under machine gun and rocket fire in an ambush by insurgents. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Lewis, Washington.

• Army Staff Sgt. Ioasa F. Tavae, 29, was killed Apr. 2, 2005, in Mosul  when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire. Tavae was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wa.

• Army Sgt. Avealalo Milo, 23, died Oct. 4, 2007, in Baghdad of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Vilseck, Germany.

• U.S. Army Sgt. Lui Tumanuvao, 29, was killed Nov. 7, 2007 in Arad Jabour, from wounds suffered when he was struck by an improvised explosive device during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga.

• U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, 42, along with two others Marines died June 26, 2008 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province. The Marines were assigned to 2d Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

As of late Sunday morning, Iraq time, the last of the American troops crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait, officially ending the war, according to international news reports.