Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has received numerous inquiries from constituents requesting information on the status of Samoan soldiers that were reportedly injured from the war in Iraq. Some of these constituents were close relatives of the injured soldiers who have raised questions about the U.S. Army’s notification procedures.
“In response to the inquiries I received from constituents, I contacted the Department of the Army and asked for clarification of its notification policy in the case of casualties,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “In response, the Army has provided me with the following information.”
“The United States Army has established strict notification policies and guidelines for every situation that may arise involving a soldier or Army civilian – be it a deceased, injured, duty status unknown, missing or captured soldier. In the case of an emergency, immediate notification will be made to the primary next of kin (PNOK) and secondary next of kin (SNOK) as pre-designated by the soldier in his or her Record of Emergency Data Card or DD Form 93. These same procedures are followed by all the other services of the U.S. Armed Forces.”
“In the case of a soldier’s death, the U.S. Army, in addition to notifying the next of kin and secondary next of kin, provides a courtesy notification to Members of Congress representing the district where the deceased soldier has specified his/her home of record and the district of his or her permanent duty station. The U.S. Army has followed this procedure for every soldier killed in Iraq whose home of record specified American Samoa and I have received formal notice in each case,” the Congressman said.
“However, in the case of soldiers who are injured, the Department of the Army is prohibited from releasing personal information about a soldier or the soldier’s medical status without the soldier’s expressed written permission. In addition, no information regarding the medical status or condition of a soldier can be released to a third party without the soldier’s written consent. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974. The Army will make telephonic notification as soon as possible only to the primary next of kin when a soldier is reported as very seriously ill or injured (VSI) or seriously ill or injured (SI).”
“In the recent case of Specialist Nick Raymond Tuiolosega who was injured in Iraq and is currently undergoing treatment at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii where I was able to visit him last week, the U.S. Army followed their notification policy. But, as we know, we live in a technologically advanced society with the widespread use of cellular telephones and email messaging and this has allowed some soldiers or their counterparts to inform their families and friends at home before official notification by the U.S. Army has been made. This was apparent in the case of Specialist Tuiolosega whose injuries were made public through informal communications from relatives.”
“A similar situation occurred in a more recent case involving another injured Samoan soldier, Specialist Venasio Sele of American Samoa. Specialist Sele, a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 94th Engineering Combat Brigade, was injured in Balad on April 25, 2005 while traveling in a convoy when an improvised explosive device or IED exploded nearby.”
“My office only learned of this incident when a cousin of the injured soldier requested my assistance to have the U.S. Army authorize travel for Specialist Sele’s wife, Kuinileti Sele, and their children so they could move from Germany where they were stationed to be with him in San Antonio, Texas. I was pleased to intervene on their behalf and she and her children have recently joined Specialist Sele and other close relatives at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas where he has been treated for burns he sustained from the explosion.”
“As a reminder to our military service members, it is important to frequently review and update your Record of Emergency Data Card, especially if any changes have occurred in your personal or family status. The military services can only abide by the law and its policies for notification based on information provided in that record.”
“You should also make sure that your home of record in your file is correct. This is very important because it will determine where your household goods and properties are shipped when you leave the service or retire. There have been instances when service members only upon retirement discover that their home of record is different from where they assume it to be.”
“At this time, I wish to congratulate Specialist Nick Tuiolosega, Sergeant Anesi Tuufuli, Specialist Venasio Sele, Specialist Faafetai Feleti, and Staff Sergeant Americana Mulitauaopele for their bravery and dedicated service to our nation in our continued effort to eradicate terrorism. I extend to them and their families my greatest gratitude and kindest personal regards during these difficult times.”
“I ask everyone to continue to pray for them and their families. Let us pray that their wounds will heal soon and that they will regain normal lives with their families. Let us also continue to pray for our soldiers who are continuing their service in Iraq and Afghanistan that they will soon return home safely to be with their loved ones,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.