A 21-GUN CANNON SALUTE HONORS AMERICAN SAMOA
(HONOLULU)—Just before a 21-gun cannon salute honored American Samoa and its affiliation with the United States of America – six new recruits were sworn into the U. S. Army when Samoans in Hawai’i gathered late July to celebrate 114 years since the United States flag was raised in American Samoa.
The salute – 21 cannon shots fired by members of the Salute Battery from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks – honored the raising of the US flag and American Samoa’s political designation as a territory of the US, explained one Flag Day organizer who serves in the US Army. Parade marchers and spectators cheered and applauded in response to the salute Saturday, July 26, 2014 at Ke’ehi Lagoon Park.
The new soldiers – Spec. Joshua Fale, Pvt. Katalina Samita, Pvt. Alexander Olomua, Pvt. Florence Tofilau, Pvt. Andrew Toa and Pvt. Togamau Hewlett – took the Oath of Enlistment, administered by Capt. Russell Osterfeld, Honolulu recruiting company commander for the U.S. Army.
“On behalf of the U.S. Army and Honolulu Recruiting company, we’d just like to thank you, fa’afetai, for having us out here today to witness the swearing in ceremony for the finest young Toa O Samoa, the finest young soldiers to join the Army and make this country stronger,” Osterfeld said. “Pastor [Joe Hunkin] thank you for your kind words, they’re going to need that strength and inspiration as they come through…the ranks and build up to be strong men and women of character, to take that character back to Samoa.”
Four of the recruits raised the flags of the United States, the Independent State of Samoa, American Samoa and Hawai’i, respectively.
Spec. Fale and Pvt. Olomua are natives of independent Samoa and Pvt. Samita is of Tongan descent and Privates Toa and Hewlett are of Samoan descent, born in the U.S., Waipahu native Pvt. Tofilau told tautalatala.com.
“I signed up for three reasons,” said the 21-year-old Tofilau, a 2011 graduate of Waipahu High School. “One: my grandpa was in the Army.”
She began preparing for a life of service in the military since high school, put in four years at Waipahu’s JROTC program and left as a second lieutenant, “the highest rank possible,” she said.
The oldest of five children, Tofilau pointed out that “financial problems” also pushed her toward military service.
“I’m the oldest…I have three sisters and one brother…this is the best way for me support my family,” said the young woman who proudly hails from Pupukahi Street.
Two of her sisters are in high school, a junior and a freshman, one is in the fifth grade and her little brother is a year old.
Her third reason for enlisting: to utilize the educational benefits afforded by a US military career.
“I want to do school, this will pay for school,” she said. “I want to study biology and become a doctor.”
While it seemed inevitable that she would enlist, her father was against her joining the military. When her parents left for Alaska May this year, Pvt. Tofilau enlisted without their knowledge. She first took the Oath late May. She took the Oath a second time at Flag Day with the friends she’d made through the recruiting office.
“My dad is not ready for it,” she said. “They were crying. They couldn’t believe I went through with it. My dad was crying on the phone. I can’t be sticking around here forever under my parents’ roof. I gotta help out.”
Planning to serve in the medical field, Pvt. Tofilau leaves O’ahu late this month for six months of training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. After training, she will move to Fort Lee in Virginia. All six of the recruits will move out to the U.S. mainland for training and for work.
It will be the first time Tofilau will be separated from her family. She will miss them but the Salt Lake Methodist Church member emphasizes she comes from a “spiritual family.”
“I’m excited but at the same time I’m going to miss my sisters. It’ll pay off in the end,” said Pvt. Tofilau. “It will be my first time going away from my family for so long but they’ll be fine…we’re a spiritual family…they’ll be fine.”
The crowd that gathered for Saturday’s finale to the weeklong Samoan Flag Day was the smallest to participate in the events of that week. Early in the week, droves of Samoans were at Ke’ehi Park for a number of reasons: for business as booth operators, to play rugby, for Samoan food, to perform or just to hang out and watch the games and performances. Friday night drew the largest audience with food booths selling out before the crowds dispersed.
The Army recruiting booth was among the informational booths at Flag Day.
The flag raising ceremony started with a parade. Parade marchers included the new recruits, groups representing Flag Day hosts Atoa-O-Ali’i and the Color Guard from the JROTC program at Kaimuki High School led by Lt. Col. Bryan, senior instructor for Kaimuki’s JROTC program. Additional parade participants were the Tuvalu Fou Church, the Central Samoan Assembly of God Church from Kalihi, the Samoa Mo a Taeao siva Samoa group, rugby players from various teams and the newly crowned Miss Samoa Flag Day Hawai’i Alyssa Feagaimali'i.
A number of Hawai’i politicians and representatives of several politicians, came out to speak at Flag Day. More stories from Samoan Flag Day coming up on tautalatala.com.
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