Monday, July 23, 2007

AP Apineru laid to rest

Family, friends and U.S. Marines gathered in Salt Lake City on Friday to celebrate the life of Marine Staff Sgt. Faoa Apineru, who died July 2, two years after suffering wounds from a roadside bomb while patrolling in northern Iraq in May 2005.

American flags lined the perimeter of the First United Methodist Church as a group, mostly Samoans, sang, prayed and eulogized Apineru inside.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I did not come here all the way from Washington, D.C., to mourn the life of this brave Marine. I came here to celebrate his life," said U.S. Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, during his remarks at the service.

Family and fellow Marines remembered Apineru's dedication to the Marines and his concern for others.

Apineru, a native of American Samoa, died after suffering for two years from brain damage caused by shrapnel that entered his skull when a roadside bomb exploded, killing and wounding other members of Apineru's group. The wound left Apineru with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, memory loss and emotional distress that made the following two years difficult and challenging for him. Selemaea Apineru, Faoa Apineru's brother, said during the service that the wound knocked Apineru unconscious and that he woke up in the hospital punching and kicking, thinking he had been captured by insurgents.

"I've got the report (that says) one of the doctors was knocked out (and) two of the nurses were kicked in the gut because he thought he was in enemy territory," Selemaea Apineru said. His attendants had to prove they were American by putting an American flag in the room and wearing Marine uniforms.

Apineru was moved to the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., in June 2005, where he spent the following two years.

Paul Johnson, director of the outpatient brain injury program at the hospital and case manager for Apineru, said during the service that Apineru reached out to others while he recovered.

"The things that impressed me about him was that he was very caring and he was very concerned about the Marines that he left over in Iraq," Johnson said. "He sent them care packages just to try and keep up their spirits ... He was very worried about them."
Johnson said Apineru was especially happy when his family visited him.

"I know that AP (Apineru's nickname) had a heart bigger than he was," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Judkins, Marine Corps Military Liaison for the hospital who worked with and became friends with Apineru. "Most of the time he was taking care of me," Judkins said.

Faleomavaega presented an American flag that had flown on the U.S. Capitol Building to Apineru's mother, Tiute.

Apineru's dedication to the Marine Corps was a major theme of the service.

"Staff Sgt. Apineru was always faithful to his God, country and corps," said Marine Sgt. Maj. Steve Lara, who spoke during the service.

Selemaea Apineru had similar things to say.

"He doesn't call the Marines friends, he calls the Marines family."

From the Deseret News

Related Link:
AP Apineru remembered

Related Link:
Faoa "AP" Apineru reported to have succumbed to Iraq injury