Ads by Google Ads by Google

Retired US Armed Forces chaplain returns home

Retired Chaplain Major Folauga Jr Tupuola
Chaplains offer spiritual guidance and service to military members

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A retired Chaplain Major, Folauga Jr Tupuola, 61, of Iliili, from the U.S. Army, has returned home to American Samoa after 15 years of service, which included a knee replacement and hip replacement — so he decided to retire medically.

It’s been 5 months since he officially retired, 100%, VA retired. He brings home with him, “My wife, Leilani Tupuola, we have our three children and four grandchildren and also my deceased brother’s children to take care of.”

He took the time to speak with Samoa News about his journey to becoming a US military chaplain in the Armed Forces.

“I graduated from Kanana Fou seminary before I left to Claremont, California to pursue my Masters in Theological studies.

“I graduated, got my Master's, came back to Kanana Fou Seminary and taught there for two and half years.

“Then I left to pursue my Doctorate Ministry at Claremont California and I received it in 2008 as my Doctor in Ministry.”

 Tupuola said, he then went into the Army as a Chaplain and “I've been there as a Chaplain ever since — after I received my doctor's ministry.

He said of his military service, “I served the soldiers and their families. “I provided religious support, spiritual guidance. “We did worship services.

“If we went out on deployment, we're non combative, as ordained chaplains, we don’t carry a weapon.

“But we have a Chaplain Assistant that carries a weapon as our security … to protect us, to carry a weapon as we are not allowed to carry one.

“My wife and my children went with me to the states when I got accepted in my master’s program and my doctorate program.

“They also went with me when I joined the Army.

“Any assignment given to us, I was able to take my wife and children with me .

“Only when you're deployed does the family stay back.”

Of US military life with his family, the retired chaplain speaks of his service, not apart from his family, but as “we”.

“There's always challenges because you make friends and get to make strong bonds with soldiers in this location and then we are being sent to a different location.

“Another challenge is our children, as you get them comfortable with one school … and then you are getting a mandatory assignment that you have to get relocated, so our children have to leave this school to enter another school and make new friends.

“So from 2009 all the way to 2023, I have been relocated seven times.

“I’ve gone to Iraq, Baghdad for 11 months, then came back, then went to Korea and then as a brigade chaplain in recruiting so we went to Japan and provided religious support to soldiers located there.

“So we've been doing a lot of traveling just to provide ministry.

“Sometimes soldiers that have to deploy or relocate outside of the United States spend most of their time leaving their children and spouse.

“So you can imagine the separation It causes, like loneliness, isolated from the family so that's when they provide counsellors.

“Whatever resources that soldier's need, this is a chaplain's role — with a lot of prayers, including pastoral counseling.

“I think as a servant of God, you know you serve soldiers you serve God by serving soldiers and their families, so when a chaplain deploys with their soldiers, I'm their spiritual leader; I'm their spiritual guidance; I provide religious support,” he told Samoa News.

“My role is very important. For us inside the Military, whether it’s Air Force, Army, Marines, we have chapels, we have a diverse group.

He pointed out that religion is diversely represented in the military because you have different faiths.

There is a Muslim chaplain, a Christian chaplain, a Buddhist chaplain, a Mormon chaplain and others — to accommodate the spirituality of US Armed Forces members.

“The role of a chaplain was very important to me, because it was essential to me and it was such an amazing experience for me, because I had to learn how to serve — in a diverse group within a diverse environment.

“People were raised in certain religions, for example Christianity: I was raised in Kanana Fou, and was taught to be the Christian leader.

Retired Major Tupuola is now back in American Samoa with his wife and some of his children. He’s looking forward to helping the community, getting involved with his church, again.

“I was an instructor at Kanana Fou, and I’d like to see if I can apply, to help out, with our seminary.”

The retired military chaplain is one of the many members of the US Armed Forces that return home to enjoy being home, and contributing to the community. Many of our community leaders are military retirees — like Gov. Lemanu P.S. Mauga, who is retired Army, and looka at American Samoa as continuing their service to the people, only in civilian life.