Sailing into a foreign port to find family awaiting your arrival was a unique honour for a 2RAR soldier onboard HMAS Success.
Private Pelesuma is embarked in Success with eight other members of the Townsville-based pre-landing force ‘Bravo’, who will disembark in Hawaii to participate in Exercise RIMPAC.
On the way to Hawaii, the soldiers and their Navy shipmates are participating in the major maritime activity Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018 (IPE18).
For Private Pelesuma, IPE 18 not only offered him the opportunity to sail into South Pacific ports and train with local police forces, but also took him to his family’s homeland of Samoa for the first time.
His Aunty Seiuli Doris Teo, and cousin Frances Teo, who live in the village of Pesega, gave him an emotional welcome on the wharf.
“We are very proud of him,” she said, as happy tears ran down her cheek.
“We are proud of him for choosing to join the Army and for serving his country.”
“He is making his whole family proud, and I’m crying because what I am saying comes from the heart,” Mrs Teo said.
Mrs Teo said there were some important places she would take her nephew to visit during his short stay in Samoa.
“I will take him to see our Grandfather’s grave and our family’s land and give him a bit of the history of our family, because I know he’s got a lot of questions to ask given this is his first time in Samoa,” she said.
Private Pelesuma said he was grateful for the opportunity to see loved ones and visit a place so special to him and his family.
“Being able to visit Samoa has meant a lot to me,” Private Pelesuma said.
“Seeing these traditions and values has shown me ways I can continue to improve myself, not only as an individual, but also as a soldier.”
“I am happy to have been able to earn family traditions and hear our history,” he said.
Private Pelesuma is one of three Australian Defence Force personnel with Samoan heritage who had an opportunity to visit family while alongside Apia.