(Yap, FSM) - Saturday, February 5th, ended up to be another difficult day for Mark Mathow. The eldest in the family, he would be the recipient of tragic news from far away and be the bearer of sad news to the family. Close to midnight that evening, the phone rang and he was informed that his younger brother serving in the U.S. Army had been tragically wounded. The news was sketchy with not many details. By Sunday morning, he had gotten in touch with Army personnel in Hawaii and the sad news was confirmed.
A press release dated February 5, 2005 of the Multi-National Force-Iraq stated that two Task Force Danger Soldiers were killed and four were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on a Multi-National Forces patrol near Bayji at 4:25 p.m., February 4. One soldier died at the scene of the attack and another died of wounds at a Multi-National Forces medical treatment facility. The four, who were wounded, were riding in an up-armored Humvee when the attack took place. They were transported to medical facility for treatment of their wounds and two were able to return to duty.
On February 8, the U.S. Dept. of Defense issued a press release identifying the two soldiers lost. One of them was Staff Sgt. Steven G. Bayow, 42 year old from Yap, Federated States of Micronesia. According to the DoD release, Staff Sgt. Bayow was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division that was previously stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, U.S.A.
Family members said that he was recently deployed last December to Iraq for his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steven Gamew is the son of Jose Bayow (deceased) of Gitam, Rull and Josepha Lukpin. He is survived by his mother and several brothers and sisters.
His mother was especially devastated by the news, as would any mother. In speaking with her, she recalled that her son had always wanted to be a soldier. He had always enjoyed playing soldier as a young boy. That opportunity presented itself possible when the FSM in 1986 ratified a Compact of Free Association with the United States and FSM citizens were eligible to volunteer their services in the United States Armed Forces.
Despite her grief, Staff Sgt. Bayow's mother takes comfort in the fact that her son died while doing something that he loved - being a Soldier. She also recalls that his joining the Army had really turned his life around. After getting into trouble with the law as a young teenager for mischievous behavior, he approached his mother and told her that he was joining the Army to make something good of his life. The death of Staff Sgt. Bayow is the second for an FSM citizen serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. Skipper Soram, 23, of Pohnpei State was lost on Sept. 22, 2004 in Baghdad, Iraq when a vehicle-based improvised explosive device detonated near his security post. Soram was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. In June 2003, Army Specialist Hilario Bermanis, of Pohnpei State suffered serious injuries during an attack, whereby he lost both legs and his left arm. Mr. Bermanis has been made a U.S. citizen.
It was reported in the Pacific Daily News on February 10 that another FSM citizen from the State of Kosrae also sustained injuries last week while he was tending to an injured soldier. Corpsman Bailey Elley sustained burns to his face and lungs when another bomb went off near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
It is estimated that over 1,000 FSM citizens are currently on active duty with the U.S. Military. The FSM being a small island country with an estimated population of 107,000 (2000 Census) that means that roughly 2% of its populace is enlisted.
Article IV of Title 3 of the Compact of Free Association makes citizens of the Freely Associated States eligible to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. They serve as U.S. Soldiers and remain citizens of their respective country.
With so many of its young men and women serving, the question is beginning to rise as to what the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia is doing to duly recognize and support these citizens, if any, in the honor of their services.
The FSM Congress last year passed a bill and was signed into law for the FSM to observe a National holiday on November 11th of every year as the "FSM Veterans of Foreign Wars Day" to honor those serving. This holiday was first commemorated last November 11.
When Sgt. Skipper Soram was lost, the FSM Congress and the Pohnpei State Legislature issued resolutions honoring the fallen soldier. Jesse Raglmar-SUBOLMAR, a Delegate to the 2004 Yap State Constitutional Convention, rose on a point of privilege during its session on February 11 and poised the question "what has our governments, national and state, done to recognize these men and women who have sacrificed their lives". Referring to the news of Staff Sgt. Bayow, "this young man gave Yap State a good name when he was alive and joined the Armed Forces to serve. Even in his untimely passing, he gave Yap a good name as well when recognized in the media as a '42-year old man from Yap, was one of two soldiers killed in Bayji'."
Delegate Raglmar-SUBOLMAR further stated that he does not know how this should be handled or what department of government is responsible, but stressed that whichever department or individual officials responsible, "something needs to be done to properly honor these fallen daughters and sons of Yap State".
Stated Raglmar-SUBOLMAR, "they went and indeed represented our governments in this coalition of nations against terrorism and lost their lives or become seriously injured. They took the name of their state and country to this cause and stood with it even to the last measure of devotion."
In closing his statement, Delegate Raglmar-SUBOLMAR said that the Government of Yap State in conjunction with the FSM National Government should establish proper protocols for which the Nation and the States can recognize these fallen heroes and heroines, sons and daughters of our state."
The Delegates of the Convention offered up a clapping ovation in support of Delegate Jesse Raglmar-SUBOLMAR's statement on the floor of the Convention.
Staff Sgt. Steven Bayow will be accorded a military burial by the U.S. Military. His bodily remains is expected to arrive sometimes next week for its final resting place.
The U.S. Ambassador to the FSM will be attending the funeral, representing the President of the United States.