Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

Micronesian Army Specialist Awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart For Meritorious Conduct During the Iraq War

WASHINGTON, D.C. (FSM Embassy to the US): July 21, 2003 - In a bedside ceremony held Wednesday, July 16th, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Major General Charles Swannack, Jr. bestowed two medals on Specialist Hilario Bermanis of the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division. Major General Swannack was also accompanied by Colonel Bray and Command Sergeant Major Thorpe of the 82nd Airborne Division. Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Ambassador to the US, Jesse B. Marehalau and State Department Deputy Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Colin Helmer were present for the awards. Specialist Bermanis received both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his conduct in action and wounds received in an attack in southern Baghdad. Specialist Bermanis is from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and has been with the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC for three years.

On June 10th, 2003, as Mr. Bermanis and a fellow soldier guarded a weapons turn-in point, they were attacked with rocket launched grenades. Bermanis' partner was killed instantly and Bermanis lost both legs and his left hand. Bermanis was rapidly evacuated to Germany and then transferred to Walter Reed. He has undergone numerous operations required to save his life. Since July 14th, Specialist Bermanis has been able to communicate with his family and seems to be improving although he is still being carefully monitored. Specialist Bermanis is off the respirator and dialysis machine; he is alert and communicative with staff and visitors.

At the time of Mr. Bermanis' evacuation, the Army arranged for the parents, Hilario Bermanis, Sr. and Clarise, to travel from the FSM to be by their son's bedside, along with Hilario's younger brother Ray. Hilario's older brother, "Junior," also stationed in Iraq at the time of the attack, was given emergency medical leave to be with the family.

On Sunday, July 13th, a senior delegation of FSM officials visited Specialist Bermanis. The delegation included the Secretaries of Economic Affairs, Finance, and the Attorney General, along with FSM Embassy and Foreign Affairs staff. They conveyed the FSM's gratitude and pride for Specialist Bermanis' bravery and service in combat. The high level delegation is in Washington for Congressional hearings on the Compact of Free Association between the US and FSM, before the Senate Energy Committee (July 15th) and House Resources Committee (July 10th). Bermanis has also received visits from the Acting Army's Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff among others.

In oral testimony before the Senate Energy Committee on Tuesday, Department of Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, David Cohen, referred to his own visit on Monday the 14th with the Army Specialist, and remarked on the valuable and significant contribution made by Hilario Bermanis and other FSM citizens, indicative of the FSM's commitment to the security of the US and Pacific region, partially expressed through service by FSM citizens in the US armed forces personified by Specialist Bermanis and other FSM service members still in Iraq.

Speaking of Hilario, his Platoon Sergeant, Arthur E. Swartz III, said that he is "damn proud of him." The Bronze Star commendation reads: "For meritorious service from 14 February 2003 to 10 June 2003, while assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Specialist Bermanis' professionalism and dedication to duty are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Blue Falcons, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the United States Army."

The Bronze Star was awarded 10 July 2003, presented on Wednesday, 16 July 2003. The Purple Heart was awarded 16 June 2003 and also presented Wednesday. Specialist Bermanis has also received three military coins from the Acting Army Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff and the Major General of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Mr. Hilario Bermanis, Sr, and family friend, Army Second Lieutenant Elise O'Hern were standing bedside for the ceremony while medical personnel looked on. Ambassador Jesse B. Marehalau and First Secretary Tanya Harris represented the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia. Specialist Bermanis is facing additional medical treatment for his injuries and a very long recovery. After the ceremony, Ambassador Marehalau commented "bravery, honor and valor know no geographic or ethnic bounds, and Specialist Bermanis did his duty on behalf of our country and the US, and for that we are humbly grateful and mindful of our indebtedness to his sacrifice."


NOTE:

There are approximately 1000 FSM citizens in the US armed services (total FSM population is roughly 107,000). During Desert Storm/Gulf War in 1991 (just as the FSM was joining the international community through UN membership), the FSM had among the highest per capita enlistment of any other allied nation that participated. These FSM armed services enlistments are made possible through the unique Compact relationship, and which is currently being extended for the next twenty years through HJ Res. 63 being considered by the Congress at this time. Adoption of the new Compact agreement must be completed by 30 September 2003.


For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
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P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
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