In response to recent inquiries from the press and public, Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on January 25, 2006 and also on April 7, 2004 he wrote a letter to Brigadier General John Ma, Commanding General, 9th Regional Readiness Command, in Hawaii recommending that the newly built $20 million U.S. Army Reserve Center in Tafuna, American Samoa be named in honor of the late Sergeant First Class (SFC) Konelio Pele.
“I am pleased that in the January 30, 2006 issue of Samoa News, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Mapu Jamias announced on behalf of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars that they were also recommending that the new Army Reserve Center be named in honor of SFC Konelio Pele. I was unaware that our veterans made the same recommendation but I am pleased by this outcome,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
SFC Konelio Pele was assigned to the Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii and was deployed in Vietnam under the command of Major General Carpenter. On July 25, 1966, SFC Konelio Pele was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest medal for valor, for his gallant service in the field of battle during the Vietnam War. SFC Pele served in three wars and was awarded a Bronze medal, two Purple Hearts, and three Combat Infantryman Badges.
On July 25, 1966, the Department of the Army issued General Orders: Number 4997 awarding SFC Konelio Pele the Silver Star for his actions on May 29, 1966. The citation states:
Sergeant First Class Pele distinguished himself on 29 May 1966 while serving as a platoon sergeant securing a landing zone in the Pleiku Province, Republic of Vietnam. When his platoon moved out from the landing zone to render assistance to other elements of the company that were pinned down by a large Viet Cong force, Sergeant First Class Pele repeatedly exposed himself to the intense hostile fire as he maneuvered his platoon. During the course of action, he singlehandedly charged a Viet Cong machine gun emplacement, killed two of the crew members with his rifle, and caused the remaining insurgents to flee. After he covered the evacuation of the dead and wounded, he carried the hostile machine gun and ammunition through the bullet swept area to friendly positions. When he returned to the landing zone, he realized that a wounded member of his platoon had been left behind. Sergeant First Class Pele, with complete disregard for his safety, moved several hundred meters across open terrain, found his fallen comrade, and carried him back to be evacuated. Through his heroic efforts, the Viet Cong were defeated in that area. Sergeant First Class Pele’s extraordinary heroism in close combat against a numerically superior Viet Cong force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
“SFC Pele’s action is a pure example of personal courage. His unit and the U.S. Army recognized his selfless actions and for this reason he was awarded the Silver Star. It is my understanding that SFC Pele was also recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions but there were problems in processing the paperwork through the higher command and his recommendation never made it through. I feel that SFC Pele was not awarded the full recognition that he deserved,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“In fact, SFC Pele’s combat record reminds me of some 52 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross Award that were presented to the Japanese-American soldiers who fought in Europe during World War II. There was only one Medal of Honor awarded to the brave Japanese-American soldiers who sacrificed so much during World War II, despite the tremendous amount of bigotry and racism brought against these Japanese-American Citizens.”
“As I recall, in 1996, Senator Daniel Akaka authored a provision in the Defense Authorization Act mandating a review of the service records of the 52 recipients who received the Distinguished Service Cross. As a result, 19 additional Medals of Honor were awarded to our Japanese-American veterans including Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.”
“I believe that SFC Pele’s record is very similar to that of our Japanese-American veterans and I feel that it is only appropriate to request the Department of Defense to review his actions during the Vietnam War and it is my intention to consult closely with Senator Daniel Akaka on this matter. We will explore all options on how best to reexamine SFC Pele’s war record, and see if he should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
“At the same time, I am also recommending that our new Army Reserve Center be named in honor of SFC Pele. SFC Pele lived his life to the fullest and represented all seven values of the United States Army including loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. For his commitment to God and country, for his example to you and me, I am hopeful that the U.S. Army will recognize his distinguished service and name the new Army Reserve Center in his honor,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.