Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he was invited to accompany Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) of the House Committee on International Relations on his official visit with several countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Also joining Chairman Hyde in this Congressional Delegation (CODEL) are Congressmen Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Melvin Watt (D-NC), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
Prior to their departure from the United States, Congressman Faleomavaega requested through the U.S. Embassy in South Korea a chance to meet the Samoan soldiers and their families who are stationed there. There are over 37,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Korea.
“Whenever I travel abroad, I always make an effort to visit the Samoan soldiers in that area just as in the case of South Korea,” said Faleomavaega. “I was delighted to meet Major Tauapa’i Laupola from Afono and Command Sergeant Major Tuileama Nua from Ta’u-Manu’a and the rest of Samoan soldiers and their families who make up the Republic of Korea Samoan Association or ROKSA.”
“The Samoan soldiers and their families shared with me their concerns about our current election laws and the difficulties they face in meeting the requirement to register in person in order to vote for the governor and lieutenant governor as well as local Fono representatives. I explained to the soldiers about the current law and the changes that must be made so they can register by mail just as permitted under Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act of 1975.”
“As I have stated before, I cannot seem to understand how we can continue to have a policy that requires our military men and women who are serving in the frontlines and fighting wars to leave their jobs and return to American Samoa to register in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. This is just not right. We are putting too much unnecessary demands on our men and women who have already made too many sacrifices and putting their lives in harms way while we sit back in American Samoa enjoying the benefits of their service. Besides, many of these service men and women from American Samoa are also tax payers whose taxes are sent back home for use by our local government.”
“Furthermore, I was pleased to discuss with the soldiers and their families the VA Medical Clinic that is planned to open in American Samoa in the next several months. This is a project that has been in the making for the last six years and I am so pleased that we will finally see its completion soon. This will definitely provide the much needed assitance to our veterans and active members and their families with their health and medical needs.”
“I also had the privilege to meet and speak with the South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun as well as General Burwell Bell who is Commander of U.S. Forces in Korea and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow. Commanding General Bell assured me and our delegation that we are sufficiently prepared in South Korea to deal with any threat posed by the neighboring North Korea.”
“Finally, with our military bases in South Korea within range of any missile attack from the North and with North Korean armed forces outnumbering our military personnel at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) border by the tens of thousands, I give credit to our U.S. Forces, especially our Samoan soldiers stationed in Korea for their courage to serve there,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.