The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Honorable Robert Wilkie arrived in American Samoa in the early morning hours of July 31st to visit and pay tribute to the contributions of American Samoans through their service to the United States Armed Forces.
Secretary Wilkie and his distinguished entourage began their visit with an “ava ceremony” at Su’igaulaoleatuvasa Fale Samoa hosted by Governor Lolo Moliga and the Office of Samoan Affairs.
Governor Lolo Moliga, Congresswoman Aumua Amata along with District Governors Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson and Laolagi Vaeao, were present to welcome the visitors with Deputy Secretary of Samoan Affairs Malemo Tausaga overseeing the proceedings.
Secretary Wilkie holds the distinction of being the the first VA Secretary to visit American Samoa. In his comments at the ceremony he thanked all for the “kind and spiritual welcome” to American Samoa and extolled the contributions of American Samoans beginning from World War I.
Secretary Wilke’s entourage included Rear Admiral Kevin Lunday, Commander 14th US Coast Guard District Hawaii, Rear Admiral Louis Tripoli, US Pacific Command Surgeon, Deputy Assistant Secretary Sandra Oudkirk, Bureau of Energy Resources, State Department and Nikolao Pula, Director of the Office of Insular Affairs, Department of Interior, amongst others. Governor Lolo Moliga said Secretary Wilkie’s visit is indication that Washington D.C. is now paying more attention to our veterans. He stated that he is very thankful that Secretary Wilkie has visited American Samoa in order to get a first-hand look to truly appreciate the challenges faced by local Veterans.
Following the ava ceremony, the delegation toured some significant locales in the Territory, most importantly the LBJ Medical Center to emphasize the need for improved health care facilities and services for local Veterans.
As a final stop before continuing on the next leg of his trip, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie traveled to the Veterans Memorial Center where he presented a wreath in honor of American Samoa's departed Veterans and then met met with local Veterans at the VA Center. Approximately 50 Veterans showed up to meet and hear from Secretary Wilkie who is directly in charge of programs and services for veterans. Secretary Wilkie assured local veterans that he will pay close attention to their needs.