Memorial Day 2013—a moving tribute to the fallen
“From the graves at Satala Cemetery, to the grassy knoll on Punchbowl, to the flags flown over Arlington Cemetery, it reminds us of their selfless devotion to duty, relentless loyalty to the country they love, but most importantly, it reminds us that the very freedom, sometimes taken for granted ... is not free,” said Retired US Air Force Major Le’i Sonny Thompson, who’s also Human Resources Director during his opening remarks at the Memorial Day Service commemorating the US Men and Women who died while serving in the Military.
The ceremony was held at the American Samoa Armed Forces Memorial Building at the Tafuna Industrial Park with invocation by Rev Tusi Seanoa Ve’a Jr of CCCAS Petese Uta whose choir also sang the hymns. More than 100 veterans, along with family members of the fallen men and women, attended the ceremony yesterday morning.
Le’i who was master of ceremony noted that American Samoa joins the United States of America in paying tribute to these men and women, including our very own “Toa o Samoa” who served in the Armed Forces with great distinctions and valor, made sacrifices and paid the ultimate price with their lives.
“We mourn with the families and friends of those we have lost, and hope that they find comfort knowing that their loved ones died in honor," he said.
“We ask God’s grace to protect those fighting in distant lands and we renew our promise and solemn oath and commitment to support our troops, their families and our veterans."
“This time of the year marks the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer. “With the change in season, I believe it is fitting, that we honor the fallen with a season that gives birth to new life, new hope, prosperity and peace throughout the world,” said Le’i.
Lt Governor Lemanu gave the special address at the ceremony, where he noted that this day is a great day to be an American; it’s also a great day to be veteran. He acknowledged the presence of veterans and family members of the fallen soldiers who were among the crowd.
“You and those of our fellow men and women in uniform who have gone before us, are our heroes—thank you for your bravery and thank you for your service."
“Memorial Day is a special holiday with a very special meaning in the history of our nation," he went on.
"It’s a day we pause to remember the men and women who gave their lives for their country. Today we pause to pay tribute to their service, their spirit and their memories.”
The Lt Governor read out the names of Samoans who lost their lives in military service. He also pointed out that over the years, Memorial Day has also become a day to remember a loving family member who has passed on. He pointed out that Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and other officials were on the ASG boat at the mouth of the harbor, near Lauli’i for a service at sea, where they were laying wreaths in the ocean.
“This day throughout the US, flags are flown at half mast, where families gather at cemeteries and burial grounds, throughout the US and in the Territory. Where families are placing flowers on graves of loved ones….. while we honor the men and women in uniform who gave their lives in the defense of our nation, let us not forget what it is they gave their life for, the freedom and peace we enjoy each every day, the freedom that allows everyone to do whatever they want to do every day.”
Lemanu noted that American Samoa has lost too many sons and daughters in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more per capita than any other state or Territory.
Fighting backs his tears the Lt Governor noted the Toa o Samoa who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II.
“To the families, I say malo fa’afetai, please know your loved ones did not die in vain; they died honorably in defense of our democratic principles and the beliefs of our democracy.”
The Lt Governor also acknowledged the men and woman who died after a life of public service to the US Government and the American Samoa Government. “Though this day is typically spent regarding the valor of men and women in uniform who died in combat, we must not forget those public servants who worked hard serving our country in different capacities.
“Their passing didn’t necessarily make the headlines, or the pages of history, though their service and contributions to our society nevertheless requires our respect.”
He also quoted President Ronald Reagan’s Memorial Day address in 1982 as quoted below:
“As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.”
The Lt Governor concluded by reading out the Chorus of the song “God Bless the USA” by American Country Music artist, Lee Greenwood. His best single “God Bless the USA" was popular when it was first released in 1984 and resurged in popularity once again following the attacks on America on September 11, 2001.
“That I'm proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA”