19-year-old from Fajaima, American Samoa is in the 100th Battalion,
442nd Infantry Army Reserves attached to the 29th Brigade.
He spent approximately half a year training in Texas and Louisiana
before serving a year-long deployment in Balad, Iraq.
Solia returned to U.S. soil on Dec. 30 with more than 80
other soldiers from Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam, Saipan, and
the U.S. mainland. They were all greeted with a “welcome
home” ceremony at Kalaeloa (formerly Barber’s Point
NAS). A hangar was decked out with colorful “welcome home” signs
and patriotic balloons, while families brought fresh leis.
Soldiers lined up in formation by height and marched into the
the sounds of the Army band playing the theme song from the
Solia’s aunty and cousin from Nanakuli were there to greet
him. The excitement in the building exploded with applause and
screams as family members found familiar faces in the sea of
soldiers. Every family had a camera ready to capture the long
anticipated reunion. A large projection screen in the background
proclaimed “Welcome Home Heroes!”
Governor Linda Lingle and Hawai‘i National Guard Brig.
Gen. Vern Miyagi were on hand with speeches, after which the
singing of Hawai‘i Pono‘i closed the 10-minute
ceremony, and soldiers were released to their families and
Solia said, reminiscing about his experiences in Iraq, “There
is a God and prayers were answered.” Solia was a infantryman
who went on daily patrols off base where he and his platoon
looked for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weapons, and
anti-American forces. One of their main jobs was to secure
the military base. When Solia first got to Iraq, he was pleasantly
surprised by their living conditions, because he expected worse.
According to Solia, he, and two other roommates, lived in a
that had electricity and Internet connection. He enjoyed the
free food and got used to not having any bills to pay.
“ The food was better than we had in Fort Bliss, Texas,” said
He recalls seeing the poor standard of living the Iraqis have
and watching the children drink out of dirty canals.
“ Being there made me thankful of the way I grew up and for my
family,” said Solia.
According to Solia, one of the things he enjoys most about
being on American soil is “not being stressed out.” He
also said that he feels freer being at home. So far, he has enjoyed
spending time with his family and friends and looks forward to
getting a job. By serving in Iraq this past year, he earned his
U.S. citizenship and is seriously thinking of making Hawai‘i
his new home.
In Iraq, Solia got used to sleeping for short periods of time
due to his work schedule, but now that he’s back home,
he can relax. Getting back to a normal sleeping pattern has
been one of the hardest adjustments for him.