Students commit to Armed Forces

LEONE, American Samoa – In a sleepy village on the western shores of this remote and beautiful island, the Junior ROTC instructor asks his young cadets to step forward if they have decided what to do after graduating from high school in the spring.

Of 12 seniors, half march ahead to say they already have committed to a branch of the U.S. military.

Three more indicate they are considering it.

The last three stay put. They’re interested in the military, they say, but have failed the tests required for entry.

Emosi Time, a lanky boy in perfectly pressed uniform, quietly explains to a visitor his decision to sign up for the Army Reserves: He hopes it will help his family financially, covering part of his college tuition. And few other job opportunities exist on this impoverished South Pacific outpost that has been a U.S. territory for more than a century.

Then, almost as an afterthought, the 17-year-old concedes another litany of motivations: Every one of his four older siblings has been in the U.S. military. A sister recently finished her service in the Air Force. Two brothers are deployed on their second combat tours to Iraq.

And there is his sister, Sgt. Tina Time. She was killed there in December 2004. In death at the age of 22, she became part of a grim statistic: Per capita, American Samoans die in Iraq and Afghanistan at a higher rate than citizens from anywhere else in the United States or its territories.

Despite that, American Samoans sign up for military service at a pace exceeding even the high expectations of military recruiters.