American Samoa native on front lines of U.S. Navy coronavirus fight
BEAUFORT, S.C. — Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarona Toalepai, a native of Aunu'u, American Samoa, is playing a critical role in the U.S. Navy’s efforts to maintain a healthy and ready fighting force in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As a hospital corpsman working at the Naval Hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina, Toalepai’s skills are vital to maintaining the health of the sailors in the Beaufort area, and by extension, the readiness of the Navy’s operational ships and submarines on which they serve.
“The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic brought an invisible enemy to our shores and changed the way we operate as a Navy,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. "The fight against this virus is a tough one, but our sailors are tougher. We must harden our Navy by continuing to focus on the health and safety of our forces and our families. The health and safety of our sailors and their families is, and must continue to be, our number one priority.”
Toalepai is a 2013 Faga'itua High School graduate and 2019 American Military University graduate. According to Toalepai, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Aunu'u.
“At home, we are taught to love one another and to treat each other as family,” Toalepai said. “With this global pandemic, we have to remind ourselves and each other that we are all we have. We should learn to love each other and help out in any way we can.”
U.S. Navy Medicine is the most decorated career field in the Navy. Navy Hospital Corpsmen have earned 22 Medals of Honor, 179 Navy Crosses, 959 Silver Stars and more than 1,600 Bronze Stars. Twenty ships have been named in honor of corpsmen.
In its century of service, the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps has supported millions of sailors and Marines in wartime and peace around the world. As the years have progressed, technological innovations are transforming medical training for the next generation of hospital corpsmen, according to Navy officials.
“Looking at the past, it not only inspires me to be better but also made me want to do better in caring for our military members and their families,” Toalepai said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about our corpsman history and to all the corpsmen who went before me. I want to say ‘thank you.’ ‘Thank you’ for being great role models and know that I will do my best in caring for our country.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Toalepai, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition that dates back centuries. Their efforts, especially during this time of challenge brought on by the Coronavirus, will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who provide the Navy the nation needs.
“I am humbled to be serving in the Navy as a hospital corpsman especially in times like this, when our country needs us the most,” Toalepai added. “I know my brothers and sisters in the corpsmen rating will do our best to support and protect our people. That is what we do, that is what family is for.”