SAMOA: Home of America's bravest, the Toa O Samoa

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BLESSED: Amidst the vast Pacific Ocean, Samoa's treasured islands of Tutuila ma Manu'a.

Regina said “Raym” as she called him “brought me out of my despair” when she lost her firstborn child eight years ago. When he accompanied his twin to view her daughter Mya’s body for the first time since her passing Raymond used humor to mend his twin’s broken heart.

“Look sis, she has our lips,” he joked to Regina. Their full lips were something that many of their fellow classmates at Leone High School remembered about the pair.

Raymond’s weeping mother Leata said her son was “special,” quiet and always obedient even as a little boy.

“Although Raymond is sleeping soundly, I have not slept since I received the news,” she said. Funeral goers cried as his mother recalled how small he was as a newborn who weighed just four pounds and three ounces, and the kind of boy and young man he was.

Raymond grew up to make his mother, father, siblings, village and American Samoa proud. She said after his graduation from ASCC, her son told her of his wish to join the military.

“Son, you are my hero,” she said.

To little sister Mariah, Raymond was her “best friend” and one who “loved everyone around him.”

“He taught me everything...and I’m proud of who I am because of him,” she said. “Remember him in everything we do...he’s smiling because he’s with Heavenly Father and we’ll be with him someday.”

Leone High principal Lentoy Matagi recalled Raymond’s “big smile” as he was the first kid to give her an ula when she transferred to the school.
“It was the first smile I saw at Leone,” she said.

Raymond’s classmate Eucharist Elisara Reupena called him a “beloved brother, friend and hero.” The two served as student body officers in high school and at ASCC. As classmates, Reupena said they shared a special unique bond “that can never be broken.”

Many Leone students sang during the funeral while the Class of 1995 presented the family with a banner, wreath and monetary gift.

Raymond’s widow, Maugaosa’a, who is from Malaeloa, said she and her husband met in 2001 in Ft. Hood Texas and were in the “same unit, same platoon.”

“I was known as the problem soldier,” she admitted. “We were opposites. I was outspoken, difficult. He made me a better person.”

Governor Togiola, who presented Raymond’s wife and mother with meritorious and distinguished service medals, thanked Raymond for his great sacrifice.

“He served to give freedom to people he does not even know,” the governor said. “Someone else’s child gave his life so we can be free. I thank that soldier that gave his life and shed his blood so I can be free...I thank all the soldiers. He was a great Samoan and a great American.”

Raymond was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart medallion and a Combat Action Badge. US Army Brig. Gen. Jennifer Napper presented the awards to Raymond’s widow and mother.

Napper said Raymond achieved “richness and fullness” during his “short” 29 years of life.

She described Raymond as an “outstanding soldier, strong, honorable” who upheld the Army values and exemplified the warrior ethos.

“He was one of the best non-commissioned officers...a big guy, with a big heart, big smile, passionate about his soldiers,” she said. “He was the kindest soldier. He gave his life in service to the country he loved...touched many lives in his nine years in the military. You will always be a part of us. I honor you with a salute.”