The Tongan and army communities in Tukwila, Washington, along with relatives and loved ones, held a funeral for Sika Tapueluelu over the weekend.
Tapueluelu, 26, was among the three troops of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division who died in a 48-hour period at Fort Drum, New York.
Tapueluelu died on September 16 before Tyler Thomas, 21, and Angel Green, 24, died the following day.
“10th Mountain is still investigating the deaths, but spokesman Lt. Col. Josh Jacques said all three are believed to have been caused by self-harm and unconnected to one another”, the military.com reported.
Tapueluelu was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, it said.
“The three deaths in rapid succession underscore the difficulty the military has had trying to reduce the rates and risk of suicide among service members and veterans. Earlier this year, a Brown University study found that more than four times as many troops and veterans who had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had died by suicide as were directly killed in the conflicts”.
Tapueluelu’s devastated family, friends and kāinga have released video clips of his burial services showing his casket being carried in a horse-drawn wagon while a platoon of soldiers marching behind it.
“Only God knows how I feel right now 😔💔 Rest In Heavenly Love my dear Brother Sika Manuao Tapueluelu,” a tribute on Facebook said.
“Rest in peace and love nephew sergeant Sika Manu’ao Tapueluelu till we meet again. He’s the son of Toa and ‘Alifeleti Tapueluelu”.