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Governor and First Lady pay their respects at Arlington National Cemetery

Pago pago, AMEERICAN SAMOA — Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga and first lady Ella Mauga had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, to pay their respects to our fallen “Toa O Samoa” heroes.

 “The Arlington National Cemetery is home too many of our nation’s greatest heroes including more than 300,000 veterans of every American conflict, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

This is according to a press statement released by the government this week. The gravesites visited by the government leaders are:

●          CSM Ioakimo Falaniko (USA) – who shares a grave site with his son (PFC Falaniko) who died in 2003

●          PFC Jonathan Falaniko (USA)

●          MSG Tulsa Tulaga Tuliau (USA)

●          SSG Loleni Gandy (USA)

●          PFC George J. Howell (USA)

●          COL George Te'o Martin (USAF)

●          LCDR Iakopo "Jake" Poyer (USN)

The Governor and first lady also participated in the “Laying a Wreath” ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a symbolic grave for all fallen warriors whose remains have not been found or identified.

 “It is guarded by Soldiers of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) stationed at Fort Myer.

“The Tomb of the Unknown is honored and protected, every hour of every day, in the sun, rain, and snow.

“The laying of the wreath ceremony is a sacred service performed upon request and it is a way to honor the sacrifices of American service members.

 “The ceremony was filled with tourists who came by to tour the place and witness this sacred event.”

According to the statement the floral wreaths carry a special meaning of victory, bravery, and peace.

They were guided by the soldiers of the “Old guard” to present and place the wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier.

 “A moment of silence was observed while the sound of Taps echoed the surrounding of the tomb of the unknown.”

Governor Lemanu, a retired U.S. Army veteran, extends his prayers for God’s strength and comfort to the families who continue to mourn the loss of these servicemen and women.

 “May we always reflect on the unwavering commitment and patriotism of our fallen Toa o Samoa and all fallen warriors whose sacrifice has allowed our people to live and enjoy our freedom.

BIOGRAPHIES OF FALLEN TOA LAID TO REST IN ARLINGTON

CSM Ioakimo “Niko” Falaniko born on August 06, 1954, was called home on October 20, 2021.

He served in the United States Army Sec 60/8132 CSM (Ret) and served in the U.S. Army for 32 years.

 “His high standards are embedded in the foundations of the tens of thousands of Soldiers with whom he trained, mentored, and led in peace and combat.

 “He is a Sapper Icon having served as a Sapper Instructor in the early-1990s, was a founding member and sat on the board for the Sapper Association and maintained a constant presence at the Sapper School through his retirement.

 “He was married to Maliana Ching Falaniko, and they have four children.

 “One of the training Forward Operating Bases (FOB) used by the Sapper Leader Course was named “FOB Falaniko” in honor of his son, Jonathan.

 “Originally from American Samoa, CSM Falaniko always extended his leadership and mentorship to help Samoans and Pacific Islanders at every installation he was assigned.

 “As a result of his dedication as a great ambassador for the Pacific Islanders, he was awarded the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) award in recognition of his significant contributions to the advancement of Asian Pacific Americans (APA) and the promotion of equal employment opportunity in the Federal workforce in May 2001.

 “CSM Falaniko started and ended his military career at the home of the Engineers: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

“His overseas tours included: Hanau, West Berlin; Giessen, Germany; Camp Indian and Camp Howze, Korea; and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq.”

The statement says that PVT Jonathan Ioakimo Falaniko was called home in October 20, 2021. He served in the United States Army Sec 60/8132.

 “PVT Jonathan Falaniko wanted to be just like his dad — right down to the green Army uniform his father, CSM Ioakimo Falaniko, had worn for 27 years.

 “So it was with great pride that CSM Falaniko stood beside his son in February 2003 as the 20-year-old was sworn in.

 “PVT Falaniko was a new Soldier who had been in the Army less than 6 months.

 “He attended basic training in May 2003 and deployed to Iraq in August 2003. During this deployment PVT Falaniko and CSM Falaniko were reunited. Though family members rarely serve in the same theater of operations in times of combat, according to military officials, Jonathan's battalion was assigned to his father's division in Baghdad.”

MSG Tulsa Tulaga Tuliau born on August 01, 1972 was called home September 26, 2005 and he served United States Army Sec 60/8412.

MSG Tuliau was born in San Francisco and raised in American Samoa and was enlisted in the US Army in March of 1992 as an artillery non-commissioned officer assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 314th Regiment of the Army Reserve's 78th Division (Training Support) based at Fort Drum.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received as a result of hostile actions, the Bronze Star for meritorious service and the Combat Action Badge for actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy. He was married to Katharine J. Ellis of Pierrepont Manor, they have two daughters Vanessa and Sophia.

SSG Loleni Gandy was born on February 09, 1974 and called home on November 19, 2010. He served in the United States Army Sec 60/9488. SSG Gandy was from American Samoa and has earned the title “Toa o Samoa,” hero of Samoa of American Samoa. He lived with his family in Wisconsin. He graduated in 1991 from Marist High School and was a member of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Tomah, Wisconsin.

 “He entered the Active Army in 1993 and re-enlisted in the Reserves for 6 years on March 17, 2003. He also served a tour in Iraq with the 411th Engineer Battalion from January 2004 to July 2005 and was assigned to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin as a Senior Mechanic from August 2005 through October 2009.

 “He was assigned to the 103rd ESC and deployed to Iraq on June 6th, 2010. Loleni Gandy entered the military in 1993 and served on active duty for 9 years 4 months.

 “His unit was the primary logistical planners for Operation New Dawn, which is focused on the training, assistance and equipping of Iraqi Security Forces.

 “He was an excellent soldier and his very likeable personality made him an immediate part of the 103d logistics family.

 “SSG Gandy and his service of distinction and honor is part of both his Wisconsin and American Samoan brother and sisterhood.”

The statement says PFC George J. Howell was born January 25, 1983  and called home on December 21, 2007. He served in the United States Army Sec 60/8728 and was an infantryman from Salinas, California who entered the Army in April — was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq four days before Christmas.

 “PFC Howell, who was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, sustained fatal wounds when the blast hit his convoy near Riyadh.

 “The combat team was responsible for security in the Kirkuk region of northern Iraq and assists in training Iraqi security forces.

“He completed basic and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., and had been awarded a Purple Heart and the Army Service Ribbon. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son, all of Watertown, N.Y., and his mother.”

CoL George Teo Martin born on April 27, 1957 was called home on July 21, 2008. He served in the United State Air Force Sec 60/8882.

 “Col Martin, Flight Surgeon, was killed in a B52 aviation accident on July 21, 2008, in Guam and was among those remembered for their ultimate sacrifice.

 “The crew was based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

 “They were deployed to Guam with the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron as part of the U.S. military's continuous bomber presence mission in the Pacific.

“Col Martin was a family man. His wife is Ursula Fitimaleafa Teo Martin of American Samoa. He has one son, Guahan Aiono.”

 “LCDR Iakopo “Jake” Poyer born on February 9, 1961 and died on May 17, 2015. He served in the United States Navy Sec 55/ 1539.

Retired Lieutenant Commander Iakopo (Jake) Poyer hails from American Samoa and attended the University of Albuquerque before he began his military career.

 “He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1981 and served in five different commands including three ships, an overseas tour, and two shore commands.

 “In 1993, he was accepted for the Limited Duty Officer Program and served on seven different commands including four ships and three shore commands.

 “LCDR Poyer completed eleven deployments overseas covering the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Adriatic Sea, Caribbean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, China Sea and the South Pacific.

 “He had served as the Port Operations Officer on board Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. In 2010, he retired from the U.S. Navy after 29 years of service.”

LCDR Poyer was extremely involved in the Polynesian community locally and abroad.

 “He served as the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Pacific Islanders American Group of Virginia (PIAG) and the CEO of the National Fagaitua High School Alumni Association.

“LCDR Poyer was a family man. His wife of 28 years is Joy Volk of Woodbury, NJ. He has one daughter, Patricia Maina, and one son, Derek Esau.”