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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 19, 2005

American Samoa reservist killed in Iraq

Advertiser Staff Writers

Staff Sgt. Frank F. Tiai, 46, a member of Company C, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry was killed after a bomb exploded under his vehicle.

Army photo


An Army reservist from American Samoa killed in Iraq when a homemade bomb exploded under his vehicle Saturday was slated to go home this week to visit his family, the military said yesterday.

Staff Sgt. Frank F. Tiai, a police officer in his native Pago Pago, was on patrol, traveling in the third vehicle of a convoy outside Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad when he was killed Saturday evening, Hawai'i time, the military said.

His platoon leader, 1st Lt. Tuliloa Tuliloa, said the patrol was to have been his last before going on R&R. "He couldn't sleep the night before because he was so excited to see his family," Tuliloa said in a statement released by the Army.

Tiai's sister, Tina Netane, said the family is struggling to deal with the loss of a man who always walked with his wife by his side and whose idea of a good time was to hang out with his two children and talk story.

"We always remember him. We can't forget what he was doing for our family," Netane said. "We're very proud of him."

Tiai's wife, Talosaga, said her husband was well known and beloved in his village.

"He was a very outgoing person," Talosaga Tiai said from Pago Pago. "He liked to socialize and everybody knows him."

Tiai, 46, was assigned to Company C, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, and had been a member of the battalion for more than 20 years.

He became the first of its soldiers to die in Iraq and the fourth member of the 29th Brigade Combat Team to be killed in Iraq. The 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry is a U.S. Army Reserve battalion attached to the U.S. Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team.

Tiai was the first reservist and fifth soldier from American Samoa to be killed in Iraq, said Faalepo Faalepo, director of American Samoa's Governor's Office in Hawai'i. About 300 members of Company C, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry are from American Samoa. About 100 are from Saipan, 60 are from Guam, about 150 are from Hawai'i and 100 hail from the Mainland.

Netane, 30, said she last saw her brother at Christmas when he expressed a desire to continue to live and work in American Samoa so that he could help care for his eldest brother, Tiai Tiai, who needs constant attention after being injured in an accident years ago.

Of seven siblings, Netane said only she and Frank Tiai remained in American Samoa to care for their 49-year-old brother.

In addition to his wife and sister, Tiai is survived by two children, a 19-year-old son, Faga, and a 6-year-old daughter, Foaga.

Faga Tiai, named after Frank's father, attends college in American Samoa. Netane said her brother will be buried in Pago Pago. Tiai's body was awaiting transport to Pago Pago from Germany yesterday.

Staff Sgt. Amone Moliga, Tiai's roommate in Iraq, said Tiai had photos of his family on the wall and talked to them every day. "I sometimes thought someone was in the room with him — but it was only Frank talking to his wife's or his children's pictures," Moliga said. "He'd say things like, 'I miss you, how are you doing?' stuff like that."

The loss of a native son saddened residents of America Samoa, 2,300 miles to the southwest of Hawai'i, Faalepo said.

"We're very proud of his service not only to the government of American Samoa but also to the United States of America," Faalepo said.