“VETERANS DAY — OUR GRANDMOTHERS, MOTHERS AND SISTERS”
It’s another year to celebrate, honor and recall service members and comrades in arms on Veterans Day.
This year I would like to dedicate my time to collect the names of our Samoan grandmothers, mothers and sisters that have served in the United States Armed Forces before 1989.
The US Army (WAC), Women of the Army Corp. Activated in 1943 and were integrated in the male units in 1978. Our insignia is the war goddess Pallas Athena. I hope to find sisters that enlisted before and during this era before we became US Army Soldiers.
Since my enlistment in March 1974, unknown to me there was a major wave of professional women that enlisted in the Army. They were teachers, nurses and high school graduates. Thanks to veteran Florence Vaimauga who recalled 13 of them that enlisted together in the rotation before me in Ft McClellan Alabama. They went into the administrative clerical positions while I went into the medical field. Sporadic groups came in during the 1980’s. The floodgates to the recruiting office burst open in the year 2000.
I would love to know of these sisters. Where they were from, what village or island; who are their families, why did they enlist. Were they already career women or were they like me, fresh out of school and off the farm?
Many of us had an idea how the military benefits would impact our families. We also knew of the risks to our reputation. After all, we Samoan women carry the honor and dignity of our aiga. In the 1950’s we were stepping out into a whole new world.
'The late Mrs. Afutoto Meredith, 1952 US Navy (WAVES)' Women Accepted to Volunteer for Emergency Service', articulated well her cultural challenges to break the mold of the “proper Samoan female upbringing”.
The best tribute for our sisters is to make a coordinated effort to share and record their names and stories to be kept on file. It would be a growing file that can be shared or made available for the public to keep their memories alive from generation to generation.
It would be excellent to see the surviving female veterans create an American Samoa Task Force to undertake this challenging research. I credit our Congresswoman Aumua Amata who suggested, we in American Samoa should consider establishing a Women’s Veteran Advisory Committee.
In 1974 our Samoan society and professional world, unlike the males, was not ready to accept female veterans. We were still a mystery on why would women cross into the man’s world.
Military women brought in skills according to their respective Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), wrapped in self-discipline, management skills, adaptability, mission focused. They brought the best of the military world, stabilized a woman’s role in the family and some held chief titles as they grappled with a society that was not ready to receive them. They were the Samoan women of the modern world.
It is our duty to recognize and preserve the role of Samoan women who served and are still serving in the Armed Forces. We need to put a face on these women and celebrate their stories.
It begins by sending in and collecting their names, date of entry and departure; their MOS and units. It would also be wonderful to send in your stories and experiences as active duty servicewomen.
I hope the curator and Director of the AS Veterans Memorial Center would be open to turning some of that space into an archive museum type library.
Always mindful of our brothers in arms, another space should be dedicated to the veterans that served in and during the Korean war in 1950-1953 and Viet Nam war in 1955-1975.
There are not many — that we cannot honorably post their names and stories. We must be dedicated to maintain these historical memories and memorabilia or else Samoa and their families will lose an entire tradition of serving in the United States Armed Forces since the Fitafita was activated.
It’s a big wish list. All I can do is put it out there and start by collecting names. If you wish to add your expertise to this project, please email: email@example.com or fb inbox Ipu lefiti or Nancy Tagaloa. I will post the updated names again at the end of the month through Samoa News.
Thank you Catholic Social Services and Pae Ma Le Auli, for kicking off this Alofa project by posting the women’s names SN 11/7/19 and continues on fb until the end of this month.
Ipu Avegalio Lefiti
Veteran ‘Women of the Army Corp’, WAC