Tui

SFC Tuimalealiifano was born 11 March 1979 in America Samoa. His family moved to the United States to seek better opportunites for the future when he was 6 years old. Struggling as an immigrant family in a foreign country with parents who were ministers laid the foundation that shaped the character traits Sgt. Tui would always be known for: compassion, respect, faith, and hard work.

Sualauvi joined the US Army in June of 1997, three weeks after graduating high school and proceeded to maximize the oppportunities the service offered. His confidence, capability, athleticism, and leadership skills exploded in the military environment: as a Paratrooper, a Jumpmaster, a combat veteran of multiple deployments and national disaster recovery relief efforts (Hurricane Katrina and Rita), and a top secret security clearance Special Operations soldier.

SFC Tui married another Ft. Bragg soldier in 2000 and has three children, two boys and one girl. His oldest son is a cancer survivor and SFT Tui has taken on his parents as his dependents to provide for them in their golden years as health issues and costs have overwhelmed them. He continues to reach out to other wounded soldiers in their struggle to battle depression and relationship difficulties with their families. He and his wife are registered peer mentors with several national wounded warrior programs, including Wounded Warrior Project. He was invited to speak to Airmen who support Medevac (medical evacuation) flights to give them personal insight to their impact on the lives of service members and their families. SFC Tui was also invited to speak to newly wounded, by an Army Chaplain, during orientation classes for the Warrior Transition Unit. Many would seek private discussion after the classes based on the pictures he shared of his military career and recovery, and his personal testimony of the challenges and changes that came with injury. The aim of the Chaplain was to reduce the increasing trend of suicides among the wounded warrior population. This avenue of mentorship was an extension of SFC Tui's responsibility in the military to nurture, develop, protect, train, and equip soldiers with the tools necessary to succeed - and as a Special Operations Soldier who returned from Afghanistan quadriplegic, he was subject matter expert on loss, anger, frustration, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-determination, and hope.

SFC Tuimalealiifano has battled to a point where he can now do simple activites without assistance. Most importantly, he continues to pursue his recovery and continues to gain progress in his mobility, function, and bodily sensation and control. Tampa, Orlando and Atlanta are the national leaders for innovation and progressive research in the area of spinal cord injury (SCI). The treatments and therapies there are available nowhere else in America. Your organization has allowed him the opportunity to stay focused on his continued progression of recovery despite the tremendous financial demands of moving to do so.

Seven years ago we lost 50% of our income abruptly as I assumed the role of a full-time caregiver for my husband. Seven years ago my husband lost use of his body from his neck down. Seven years ago our children learned how to empty a urinal, get daddy dressed, and keep the house clutter-free so that daddy's wheelchair wouldn't get blocked or threaten to tumble him out by unbalancing from toys and shoes on the floor.

As a couple, we were woefully unprepared for the reality of mortality. It was a vague awareness that was possible but, in our minds, not likely for us. My husband is a soldier. So, too, am I. We have seen our true mettle in the fire of adversity. We continue to struggle to maintain the health and hope of our family even as we know that God is faithful and we will overcome this. There are not words adequate enough to express how grateful we are for the assistance that you have provided our family, but more importantly, thank you for establishing such an organization/program to help others like us - the military is a proud group of people and it takes a lot for any one of us to ask assistance outside of our own community. May God continue to bless you in all your endeavors.

With Deep Respect,
Shannon Tuimaleali'ifano
(formerly SSG, US Army; wife/caregiver of SFC Tuimalealiifano III, US Army (Retired))