Veterans Day is the day we honor the military service and sacrifice of all the men and women who have served this nation in our armed forces. Because of the incredible courage of the 9/11 generation, the tides of war are receding and, though peace can only be maintained through constant vigilance, America is more secure than a decade ago.

I am proud to be not just lieutenant governor of American Samoa but honored to have served in both the Marine Corps and Army, retiring with the rank of major after 23 years of service. Recalling those who I served with in the War on Terrorism and the Persian Gulf War, I know that, as important as this day is, we should be finding ways to honor and support veterans every other day of the year as well.

My fellow American Samoan veterans have played an important and continuing role in America’s storied military history. We are proud to have continued the tradition of service by our ancestors in the U.S. armed services. But that tradition has come at a high price as American Samoans have fought and lost their lives following the September 11 terrorist attacks at a higher per capita rate than those from any other state or region in the nation.

Like our fellow veterans in the continental United States, our service members are discovering a new battlefield as they leave the military to return to their families and search for civilian employment opportunities. Transitioning from war to peace is challenging under any circumstances, but at a time of nearly 30 percent unemployment for America Samoa the added stress of limited options for earning a decent living makes that change even harder.

The government has many responsibilities, but only one sacred obligation. If we put troops in harm’s way, we have to take care of them when they come home. Members of the military from American Samoa are no exception. We need new economic development ideas from our elected, labor and business leaders, all working together, for how we can create good jobs here in American Samoa so that the extraordinary people who fill our military ranks can also fill our employment ranks.

While there is a long way to go, important work is happening to make sure American Samoa moves forward. I have had the unique opportunity to witness the leadership Governor Lolo Moliga has shown exploring new economic development ideas and I share his drive to implement a holistic and sustainable solution. At the same time, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega is helping to ensure issues facing American Samoa are receiving the attention they deserve in Congress. Even the private sector is fulfilling their obligation as part of the island’s community by helping to create an environment where business can thrive. The Stronger Economy for American Samoa (SEAS) coalition, formed by StarKist, TriMarine, Hamburg Süd, Polynesia Line, Community Bank of American Samoa and the Chamber of Commerce are reaching out to other employers to build support for economic reform plans.

I believe we all have a responsibility to serve in order to protect our freedoms and carry on our traditions. We also have a responsibility to care for those who have put themselves in harm’s way to preserve our way of life. My experiences in the military and my service around the world make me confident that we have the talent and capacity needed to rebuild our economy and continue the American Dream for veterans in every corner of this country. I look forward to working with officials on every level who feel the same way to make sure we can do that. 

And to all of our troops, both active and veteran, and to their families, thank you for service and your sacrifice today and every day.

Peleti Mauga is lieutenant governor of American Samoa, and a U.S. military veteran.