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Micronesia's Fallen Heroes Remembered on Memorial Day



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Ambassador Prahar addresses attendees of the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Pohnpei International Airport May 31.
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Mr. Ioakim Loney and Mrs. Flora P. Loney unveil the portrait of the late U.S. Army Sergeant Youvert Loney, who died on September 5, 2009
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Mr. John Firtamag unveils the portrait of his son, the late U.S. Army Sergeant Jerome Firtamag, who died in 2010 after serving in Afghanistan. Mr. Firtamag traveled from Yap State for the Memorial Day Ceremony.
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(L-R) Portraits of PFC Paul, SGT Weilbacher Jack, and SSG Bayow at the Memorial Day Ceremony May 31.

May 31,2011 - the United States Embassy to the FSM, the Federated States of Micronesia National Government, Pohnpei State Governor’s Office, the Pohnpei Port Authority, and the Veterans’ Association hosted a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Pohnpei International Airport in Dekehtik. The collaborative effort included an unveiling of portraits of FSM citizens in the U.S. Armed Forces who have passed while on active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait since 2004. Attendees of the ceremony included FSM President Emanuel “Manny” Mori, Vice President of the FSM Alik Alik, FSM National Congress Speaker Issac Figir and other Members of the 17th FSM Congress, Pohnpei State Governor John Ehsa, Pohnpei State Legislature Speaker Nelson Pelep and other Members of the Pohnpei State Legislature, Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jane Chigiyal, members of the families of Micronesia’s Fallen Heroes and their representatives, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the Royal Australian Navy, and members of the local community. U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Lori P. Dando served as Master of Ceremony.

After an invocation by United Church of Christ-Pohnpei Reverend Bender Enicar, members of the Pacific Mission Fellowship Youth Choir performed the FSM and U.S. National Anthems.

Representing the FSM Government, Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jane Chigiyal described the service of FSM citizens in the U.S. Armed Forces as a testament to the “special and unique” relationship between the U.S. and the FSM.

During his remarks, Ambassador Prahar explained the honor of partaking in a memorial for those “who have fallen in defense of freedom…I know our nations will remain eternally grateful for their service, their valor, and their sacrifice … this memorial will remind all visitors to these islands how much we - we who live in peace and freedom - owe these Fallen Heroes.”

Highlighting the significance of Memorial Day, Governor Ehsa affirmed that “today’s remembrance is special because we honor those who have died fighting for a cause…they died fighting for freedom and liberty.” Ehsa also noted the depth of the U.S.-FSM relationship illustrated through Title III of the Compact of Free Association, which obligates the U.S. to defend the FSM and its people “from attack or threats as the United States and its citizens are defended.” With such in mind, Governor Ehsa explained that “Micronesians who die with their American brothers and sisters in the U.S. Military die not only in defense of the United States, but also in defense of their Micronesian homelands.”

Representing Admiral Paul Bushong, U.S. Defense Representative Guam/CNMI/FSM/Palau, Political Military Affairs Officer Commander Bryce M. Gibb thanked the FSM for its partnership in the defense of liberty and freedom, and the willingness of its citizens to pay the ultimate price to uphold the values shared by both the U.S. and FSM.

Following the remarks, family or designated representatives were asked to unveil the portraits according to the date of passing. Those participating were: Mrs. Perpetua Soram (mother), Mr. John E. Weilbacher (uncle), Mr. Moses Nelson (cousin), Mr. David Marar (uncle), Mr. Ioakim Loney (father), Mrs. Flora P. Loney (spouse), Mr. John Firtamag (father), Speaker Figir, and Governor Ehsa. The memorial photographs included portraits of: U.S. Army Sergeant Skipper Soram (died September 22, 2004 while serving in Iraq); Staff Sergeant Steven G. Bayow (died February 4, 2005 while serving in Iraq); Specialist Derence J. Weilbacher Jack (died October 31, 2005 while serving in Iraq); Private First Class Henry Paul (died September 26, 2006 while serving in Iraq); Sergeant Iosiwo Uruo (died May 24, 2001 while serving in Iraq); National Guard Specialist Cwislyn K. Walter (died February 19, 2009 while serving in Kuwait); Sergeant Youvert Loney (died September 5, 2009 while serving in Afghanistan); Specialist Eric M. Finniginam (died May 1, 2010 while serving in Afghanistan); and Sergeant Jerome Firtamag (died February 24, 2011 after serving in Afghanistan).

After the playing of Taps and a moment of silence, Pohnpei and Kosrae Vicariate Father Julio Angkel offered the Benediction to close the Memorial Day ceremony.

The Compact of Free Association enables Micronesians to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, which they have done honorably since World War II. Currently, citizens from the FSM and other Pacific islands serve in the U.S. military at a higher per-capita rate than U.S. citizens.

U.S. Embassy Kolonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Media Release No. 21-2011.