PAGO PAGO, American Samoa—American Samoa celebrated last Wednesday the day it officially became a U.S. territory, the 119th Flag Day.
Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander, Coast Guard 14th District, command Master Chief Lori Fields, and Capt. Mike Long, commander Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, were on hand to participate in the festival events.
“From the day in 1900 when the U.S. Navy first established a naval base here, to when these islands became a U.S. territory the same year, through World War II, to today, American Samoa has served as a position of strategic strength for U.S. security and prosperity. From Navy and Coast Guard ships that call on the port of Pago Pago for fuel and other logistics, to the fishers and canneries that harvest and process tuna and feed the world,” said Lunday.
American Samoans have served in the U.S. military around the world.
“There is no question that American Samoans are respected as great leaders and fierce warriors. They have volunteered and served in the U.S. military, including the Coast Guard, in more significant proportion and numbers than any other state or territory of the U.S. The Reserve units based here provide the military with vital capability and capacity in the event of mobilization. When it comes to service, they set the example for others to follow,” said Lunday. “American Samoans continue to serve with distinction and sacrifice to preserve our way of life.”
This participation includes involvement in every major conflict the U.S. has engaged over the past century, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When we talk of history, it is essential to step back and take stock and recognize that we are in the middle of a remarkable time of dynamic change and importance across the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, American Samoa is in the center of it.
“The United States, our allies, and like-minded Pacific Island nations are working together to advance a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that excludes no nation,” said Lunday. “We seek to reinforce a rules-based international order so that together, we can address the challenges that face us, and ensure prosperity for today and the future generations. Our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to the security and well-being of not just the United States, but of all nations. Our ability to achieve that vision rests in the strength of our alliances with other countries, united in common purpose. So that strength relies on our shared values. It is respecting one another as equals, trusting in one another, sharing a commitment to faith, family, and community. With that foundation, together we can and will meet and overcome any challenge or adversity we face.”
The theme of the 2019 Flag Day celebration is “To Prepare Our Youth for Future Challenges.”
“I applaud the focus,” said Lunday. “Certainly young people today face many of the same challenges that we met when we stood in their shoes, a few years ago. Well, perhaps it was more like many decades ago. However, because of today’s increasingly complex world, young people today face more significant challenges in many ways than we did, perhaps problems we cannot even yet imagine. I am optimistic about the next generation. They inspire me daily by their strength and fearlessness. Also, we must prepare our youth for that challenging future. First by setting the example. Next by teaching them. Finally, by honoring our heritage to reinforce our values. So today, this celebration, is an integral part of that preparation.”
Lunday was one of several U.S. federal government representatives in the territory for the observance of the annual holiday. The Coast Guard 14th District spans the Central and South Pacific. The regional footprint includes the crew of Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment American Samoa, led by Lt. Al Blaisdell and Frank Thomsen, who call Pago Pago their home. A robust Coast Guard Auxiliary made up of volunteers also supports missions each day. American Samoa is one of five U.S. territories. The other four are Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Three of the five are in the Coast Guard 14th District.
American Samoa is a U.S. territory covering seven South Pacific islands and atolls. Tutuila, the largest island, is home to the capital Pago Pago, featuring a natural deepwater harbor framed by volcanic peaks tropical rainforests, beaches, and reefs. It is home to more than 55,000 people. Pacific tuna is a primary export and active economic driver. (USCG)