Patriots dying of America

August 26th, 2006  

Topic: Patriots dying for America

Ooops that should be "for" America.
( damn Night shift )

Part one

Saturday August 26, 2006
By Angela Gregory

AMERICAN SAMOA - Talosaga Tia'i knew something was wrong when she saw three senior Army officers walk up the driveway to her home in Pago Pago one Sunday morning.
Her husband, Frank, a policeman who had been called up in American Samoa to fight in Iraq, was expected back for two weeks' leave.
This was not to be. Staff Sergeant Frank Tia'i, killed in Balad when a bomb exploded under his vehicle in a convoy, was another Iraqi statistic - the first American Samoan reservist to die in Iraq.
In 2004, Sergeant Tia'i, a 45-year-old father of two, was among 250 American Samoan reservists called up.
He was assigned to C Company, 100th Battalion of the 442nd Infantry, which included 100 reserves from Saipan, 60 from Guam and 150 from Hawaii. Asked how she had felt about her husband going to Iraq, Talosaga Tia'i's eyes light up. "Like all Samoans. They act like brave men. He was going around saying, 'I am going to find Osama'."
Tia'i went to Iraq at the beginning of last year and was killed six months later. Talosaga Tia'i, who runs a car rental business from home, says: "I didn't think it would happen to him - he was too smart."
Frank Tia'i is home now, his body encased in a tile-covered sarcophagus on the front porch trimmed with American flags.
He is also survived by a son, Rambo, 20, and daughter, Foaga, 16. Rambo had planned to join the military after high school but his father had advised him against it. Instead, he is studying criminal justice. "He wants to be an FBI agent," Talosaga Tia'i says with mild amusement.
But many young American Samoans do choose an Army career. One reason is the pay. The country's average income is US$8000 ($12,500). The minimum signing bonus in the Army is US$5000, and a private's starting pay is US$17,500. As well, the Army offers to pay for most of a college education in the United States.
In 1900, the Samoan archipelago was divided between Germany, which took the western islands, and the US, which bagged Tutuila Island and its prime Pago Pago harbour. This became strategically important in World War II.
American Samoa is an "unincorporated and unorganised territory" of the United States. Its 66,000 inhabitants are American nationals but not American citizens. They can travel freely to the US and work, but they can't vote in federal elections.
The military is glorified in American Samoa. Car stickers and yellow ribbons in support of the war in Iraq adorn almost anything standing still.
But doubt is creeping in - eight American Samoan soldiers have died in Iraq, the highest per capita death rate for any US state or territory, and the numbers wanting to recruit dropped 40 per cent last year.
There are pockets of dissent, but it is almost always kept private. One resident said: "I think it's a good thing to fight for freedom but maybe the President should think twice before getting involved in other countries' problems." Moments later she looks anxious and asks not to be named. Many feel that if they speak too loudly in support of the war, Iraq may "drop a bomb" on them.
But American Samoans are fiercely proud of their contribution to the war effort. When the reserve ground combat unit was mobilised, Governor Togiola Tulafono told the troops he would introduce legislation to protect their civilian jobs when they returned and improve their pay.
Togiola's daughter served in Iraq as a reservist and when 100 soldiers of the Bravo and Charlie companies returned in March he called them true heroes of American Samoa.
Another woman, Tina Time, 22, was the first female American Samoan casualty. She died in December 2004 near the town of Nassiriya when the military vehicle she was driving crashed with an Army vehicle in a dust storm.
Sergeant Time had been sent to Iraq from Arizona. She had joined the Tucson reserve unit, using the pay for her business studies. She was only two months away from completing a 22-month tour in Iraq when she died.
You can't miss the Time family house in Futiga village, with its huge banner reading: "Our daughter was away protecting our freedom. We are very proud of her." On the front porch garlands of colourful artificial flowers surround the raised tiled tomb behind the apple-green balustrade.
The parlour has become a shrine. Photos of Tina Time line the walls. There is a painted portrait and a large embroidered likeness. There are letters of condolence from US President George Bush and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.
Tina's mother, Mary Time - pointing proudly to photos of her beautiful daughter - seems hardly able to believe that her daughter is dead.
"I miss her every day," she says, shaking her head. "She looks so small in her uniform. We used to send her candies to throw to the young children."
Every day, Mary Time wears a large badge showing a smiling Sergeant Time, "our soldier, our hero". It was her saddest day when her husband, Toilolo, drove to her workplace to break the news. "He didn't know how to, but finally he did. I cried all the way home. I could not help myself, I broke down.
"When they brought the body home we were not allowed to open the casket. It was closed on orders from the military. I think it was due to the accident that we were not able to view her body." But she does not believe her daughter, her third child of five, died in vain. "They need to finish what was started. It is a good cause."
Last month, her eldest son, 30-year-old Mark, who repairs Army tanks, was sent to Iraq for a second tour of duty. Another son, 19-year-old son Fa'amoaga, has served nine months there. Her sons want to be in Iraq even more now. "After my daughter's death my sons feel that they have a connection with Iraq; that's where Tina died. The kids feel they will be closer to her."
But her other daughter Emeri, 28, has left active service in the US Air Force. "Somehow her sister's death got to her." Her youngest child, 17-year-old Emosi, is still at high school. "The military called him after he passed the entrance test. The passing score is 21 and he got 36. They asked what were his plans for after graduation." Emosi has decided to stay in American Samoa and go to college, but will join the reserves.
PAGO PAGO'S High Chief Asuega lets most questions about American Samoa's involvement in Iraq slide. Finally, she says she feels sorry for the relatives of those who die but still believes a military career is "very good" for the young. Asuega wears a gold eagle medallion, and proudly points out that the eagle is the symbol for Pago Pago village.
Lewis Wolman, a former editor of the Samoa News, says that for decades the military has enjoyed a high status in American Samoa, where the culture has strong elements of authority and obedience.
"Usita'i [to obey] is a very strong Samoan value. To not obey is shameful."
Wolman says that after World War II ended, privileges were given to those Samoans who moved to the US mainland if they enlisted in the Navy, which they did in droves.
They received an education, saw the world, improved their English and enjoyed financial benefits. "They came back and felt like leaders."
Wolman says at least one-third of the members of the American Samoa legislature are veterans of 20 years or more military service.
The Army reserve is a unit whose members live permanently in American Samoa.
"About three in four were married with children. They were people's co-workers, their neighbours."
They would dedicate a weekend a month and four weeks a year, for which employers were required to give time off, for training. "None expected to be called into combat, though I'm sure most did not mind.
"The day after September 11 this whole island would have enlisted. There was a strong desire to participate in efforts to bring justice to the perpetrators of terrorism."
When the reservists were called, "the island went bonkers, yellow ribbons in support everywhere".
AT THE beach by Masefau village, Mondale Tima, 22, and his friend Toaosamoa Ponesi, 20, are taking a stroll. They have just returned from Iraq. They were encouraged by their school instructors who told them to join the military where they would get a lot of money and travel.
Tima spent six months there "searching for enemies" and clearing roads. Sergeant Frank Tia'i was a friend of his, "a good man", but Tima says his death did not make him frightened about returning to Iraq.
"The danger keeps us alert. I can't wait to get back there." Ponesi, who was married a month ago, says nothing.
Sergeant Lise Tia, 27, another who has just returned, was in an administrative post but is no stranger to danger. While delivering mail to the troops a bomb went off 50m from her.
Scary? She nods silently, eyes darting sideways at her 8-year-old, Thomas. "I knew we would be in danger; it comes from being in the military." Tia, who is heading back with her unit in January, says: "I'm not too happy, but what can we do?"
The Tia home has a gold sign in its front yard, reading: "God bless my son and daughter in Iraq", and a shiny red ute in the driveway has "Iraq Freedom" displayed on the back.
"My father is proud of us," says Tia, whose brother is in the infantry and regularly in the firing-line. "And my auntie in Auckland is proud of us too."
August 26th, 2006  
Part Two

Young guns cannot wait
On the first day of the school term at American Samoa's Samoana College, members of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps hover beside the auditorium. The reserve runs a four-year course at the school, where Malaetasi Toilolo, 16, enjoys the training. "It's a nice programme, we learn to motivate ourselves"
In the school of 1000 students about a third have joined the reserve, most intending to sign up with the United States Army after they graduate. Their preliminary training will give them a higher rank. Toilolo doesn't mind the prospect of being sent to Iraq. "I like dangerous." His friend, Sina Taumanupepe, 16, laughs: "He wants to die for us."
On the other side of the main island of Tutuila a group of children at Vatia village have not even heard of Iraq. At Tula village on the east coast, some young people say they didn't know American Samoan soldiers were away fighting in a war.
One who does know is Sa Afatasi, 14. She says she wants to join the Army to "help America".
A tale of two islands
It is the South Pacific land of mom and apple pies, burger joints, gridiron and basketball. But American Samoa still retains a strongly Polynesian flavour with its villages, fale (sideless buildings), chickens, colourful buses and coconut trees.
Physically more impressive than Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa), about 100km to the west, American Samoa towers above the Pacific Ocean with its tall, rugged peaks and dense bush.
Its people are accused of having a bit of a superiority complex as well. Some refer to their Samoan cousins as "aliens", who retaliate by ridiculing their American accents.
Samoa banned The Da Vinci Code film whereas American Samoa didn't, but one of its young church pastors assaulted a cinema manager over his plans to show the film.
In American Samoa US flags flutter from cars, and red, white and blue stripes are occasionally painted around the base of coconut trees.
Many homes fly both the US flag and that of American Samoa, which features an American bald eagle carrying traditional Samoan symbols of authority, a staff and a war club.
Thousands of Fijians keen to sign up
Thousands of Fijians are putting their lives on the line in Iraq, both in the military and in private security companies which recruit former soldiers.
Carmen Voigt-Graf, social sciences lecturer at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, says that since 2003 19 Fijians have been killed in Iraq doing security work.
Fiji Labour Ministry figures indicate that at least 3000 Fijian private military officers (PMOs), as they are called, are in Iraq.
Another 3000 Fijians are in the British Army, so hundreds are likely to be in Iraq.
The security firms have to register offices in Fiji and ministry officials must be present when contracts are signed to ensure the pay is not below minimum rates and that protective vehicles and clothing - and life insurance - is supplied.
Voigt-Graft says the pay of NZ$32,000 is good money by Fiji standards. However, there have been problems where, once in Iraq, Fijians were lured by higher pay, not realising they could lose benefits such as life insurance, which can be $235,000.
When they returned there was no counselling available. There had been family break-ups, with increased domestic violence and the risk of sexual diseases.
****Sorry its so long, but I thought it was important ****
August 26th, 2006  
Team Infidel
The American Samonan unit, 100/442nd is a very historical unit..

Thanks for the article.

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