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ROKSA Bids Farewell to its President, MAJ Tauapai Mika Laupola
By Sinaoalii Easter Bruce

On 30 June 2007, ROKSA members and friends gathered at Camp Casey's ACE II to farewell its standing President, MAJ Tauapai Laupola and his daughters as they prepare to depart Korea for Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Although they were the guests of honor for the evening, the spotlight was also shared with other departing ROKSA members: SSG Talalelei Fautanu, Jr. (ROKSA's Senior Military Advisor), SPC Leilani Pine (member) and Peati Mene (member, school teacher from New Zealand).

MAJ Laupola has served as ROKSA's president since 2005 following CSM Tuileama Nua's tenure as ROKSA's first president during the 2004 – 2005 fiscal year. Due to short tours, Korea is extremely transient with frequent turnover of personnel therefore units or organizations are always challenged to deal with "change". ROKSA was not immune to these types of challenges as key ROKSA board members and committee chairs began departing Korea for new duty stations beginning in summer of 2006. These changes did not distract nor deter Laupola from keeping ROKSA on track with its mission and with ensuring set goals for the year were achieved. According to Laupola, "Our ability to expand and host ROKSA activities in Area I and Area III is a major accomplishment during this past year especially, when all of ROKSA activities in its first two years have been concentrated in Area II." Validation and confirmation of his dedication is not only evident in the 2007 Memories section of the ROKSA website but also expressed gratitude from newly arrived Samoan service members.

The ROKSA Master of Ceremonies (MC), Tala Fautanu, led the sequence of the events for the evening beginning with an informal meeting with members to discuss the future of ROKSA. The final consensus from the group decided to table the election process to identify new board members and committee chairs in September to lead ROKSA in the new fiscal year, 2007 – 2008. Immediately following the meeting, the event kicked off for the evening.

ROKSA members traveled from Taegu, Camp Humphreys and Yongsan to attend the farewell. MAJ Laupola and his daughters received gifts of love and appreciation for their service. Kicking the presentations off, Tom Bruce ROKSA's Publicity Chair and the only remaining founding member on-peninsula, presented a crystal and silver plate keepsakes etched with ROKSA's logo and parting words from the founding fathers. Since arriving in Korea in the latter part of 2005 to join their father, the Laupola girls have tirelessly contributed their time and effort in attending many dance practices and performances for many ROKSA events. With appreciation for their service, Tom Bruce presented the girls AAFES Gift Certificates.

The presentations continued with Area III, as Joe Nansen presented a plaque laid out in military décor with ROKSA's logo. SSG Fautanu, Area I right hand man, presented their plaque decorated with unit insignias and the ROKSA logo. The Amosa's (ROKSA's Spiritual Leaders) presented the girls a jewelry box and bibles and finally antique Korean tea sets were presented by Rita and Timoteo Ah-Young Shelton.

Tauapai Mika Laupola hails from Afono, American Samoa and is the proud son of Fivaula Loa and Laupola Mika. He is married and has 9 children: Si'ufaga, Pa'i, Vincent, AnnaTheresa, TiAnna, Sam, Georgina, Athenia and Lindsey. Four daughters of his 9 children resided with him this past year in Korea and were actively involved with many of the dance performances.

According to Laupola, the true meaning of ROKSA's existence extends beyond the notion of just a group of Samoans belonging to another Samoan association. The most gratifying moments of truth defining ROKSA’s true mission can be expressed in three specific cases involving PFC Brian Kalapu, PFC Joseph Lei-Sam and 1LT Aja Tuiasosopo-Nansen. According to Laupola, these cases are representative and classic examples of "tautua," "alofa," "fa'aaloalo," and "aiga."

These are the exact elements of why ROKSA was created.

ROKSA's presence on the web in late 2006 gave a glimpse of hope to a despondent mother living in Tennessee, Punipuao Lagai-Nagalapadi, who was concerned of her son’s whereabouts after he was experiencing difficulty with settling into his new unit the Republic of Korea (ROK). After reading about ROKSA's new website in Samoa News, Punipuao emailed ROKSA's president MAJ Tauapai Laupola to seek his assistance with her son, PFC Brian Kalapu. This is not the first time Laupola and Puni have met. Their history stems from their roles as educators back in American Samoa for Fagaitua High School back in the 90's. After email exchanges between Kalapu and Laupola, MAJ Laupola was able to comfort a mother miles away that her son is safe and well. At the same time a trust relationship between Kalapu and Laupola helped Kalapu overcome his hardships as a new Army soldier and basically helped Kalapu gain confidence in getting on the right track in life.

Another story comes to us from the Independent state of Samoa. After PFC Lei-Sam, Joseph received orders for Korea, his family became very concerned about living in a foreign country until they came across ROKSA's website. The family made contact with Laupola and email exchanges ensued alleviating any existing anxieties associated with Lei-Sam's new assignment to the Korean peninsula. Prior to Lei-Sam’s arrival, he felt that he knew everyone already. Lei-Sam's family manages the Vailima Brewery as Chief Executive Officers. When Lei-Sam reported to his unit, the battalion commander asked if he had touched base with Laupola which confirmed to Lei-Sam the comforts of the ROK and ROKSA's genuine presence.

ROKSA ran interference for 1LT Aja Tuiasosopo in late 2006 as her command denied her leave request to return to American Samoa for her wedding in February 2007. Tuiasosopo contacted Laupola in hopes of seeking assistance to reverse her command’s decision. After much corroboration between Laupola and Tuiasosopo's unit, she was finally granted approval to take leave. Since this was ROKSA's first wedding, key ROKSA members decided to surprise Tuiasosopo by personally funding travels to attend the wedding and presenting ROKSA's gift of love to the families. 1LT Aja-Tuiasosopo-Nansen and Mr. Saofa'i Joseph Nansen have been active ROKSA leaders stepping up to the plate in representing Area III, Camp Humphreys.

As MAJ Laupola depart the Korean peninsula, he shares his parting thoughts: "It sure has been a pleasure and an honor to see ROKSA develop into a positive force to bring Samoan service members and their families closer together and living its motto of providing a home away from home for all Samoan service members standing guard in the Republic of Korea." The result of his tenacity and fervor has had a direct impact on an increasing interest from Samoan service members requesting to be assigned to the Korean peninsula exclusively to be part of ROKSA.

MAJ Laupola and his daughters departed the ROK 8 July 2007 for Ft. Bragg, North Carolina where he will be assigned to Headquarters, United States Army Special Operations Command. He will reunite with ROKSA's first president, CSM Tuileama & Anita Nua.

...more ROKSA stories.