American Samoans’ strong military tradition

SEATTLE — For years, American Samoa has consistently enlisted more soldiers per capita than any other United States territory or state. In honor of both Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage and Military Appreciation Month, KIRO 7 is recognizing the contributions made by the AAPI community who choose to serve our country.

“As a Samoan in the Army, it just makes me that much more proud. You know, we are such a close, knit-tight community, every time we go to a new duty station, the first thing we do is we look up all the Samoans on the base, and 99.9% of the time I am related to half of them,” said Company Commander Captain Jordan Scanlan.

Scanlan is a company commander stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Born and raised in American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States, Scanlan knew from a young age he wanted to be in the Army. The decision to enlist is shared by many in their community.

“It was a common thing we say on the island, you know there are only two ways to get off the rock, you are either going to be in the NFL or you are going to join the military,” said Scanlan.

American Samoa’s Army recruiting station is ranked No. 1 out of more than 800 stations. With a population of about 46,000 people, it has the highest poverty rate of any state or territory in the United States. The Army provides an opportunity to support their families financially.

" We are all brothers and sisters; we are so proud to serve in the U.S. military; we’re so proud to be able to not only give back to our company, but ultimately give back to our families ‘cause that’s what 90% of them join for. I mean, a private in the army makes more than his whole family, probably, made before he left combined,” said Scanlan.

Scanlan joined the Army 11 years ago, and he has family and friends spread across the military bases, a connection that is comforting for Scanlan’s wife Niva and their two young children.

“We get really excited just to see a Samoan flag or a flower in someone’s care, we know right away it’s a Polynesian and we get to pull down our window and wave. We get really excited, it’s like seeing your best friend, basically, but you don’t know who they are; you just know they are Polynesian,” said Niva Moleni-Scanlan.

The desire to serve is a generations-old practice in the territory of the Pacific islands. Scanlan is proud to carry on this tradition.

“There’s a saying in our culture, “Malie toa, malie tau” which basically just translates to “good warrior good fight,” or “proud warrior proud fighter,” or ‘brave warrior.” There are a few ways to translate it, and that type of saying stems from we have really warrior culture, we’ve been fighting forever, it is deeply ingrained in who we are,” said Scanlan.