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Two Veterans’ Final (and Amazing) Reunion

A man points the direction in a lobby for another man

Schoen Safotu, Patient Advocate, assists a Veteran.

A man and woman by a man in a hospital bed

Reunited after 60 years, two brothers, Korean War Veterans, have emotional reunion in VA Community Living Center.

Chatting with Elderly Veteran, Patient Advocate Makes Remarkable Discovery

Schoen Safotu is a Patient Advocate.

Like hundreds of other Patient Advocates in the Veterans Health Administration, his job is to help Veterans navigate the system, solve problems, assist with all that paper work, listen to their problems, and sometimes make an extra effort which results in a remarkable outcome.

Joan Foley asked Schoen for a little help.

Joan is the Palliative Care Coordinator with the Pacific Islands Health Care System (PIHCS).

She was working with two elderly Samoan Veterans. One resided in the VA Community Living Center and the other lived in a Honolulu hotel, waiting to find out about his disability rating for his medical benefits so he could be placed in a convalescent home.

She asked Schoen, a Gulf War Veteran, to visit with the Veteran in the Community Living Center because he was alone. No visitors. No company.

They had not seen each other in 60 years.

Schoen quickly made friends with the elderly Veteran and discovered that he had been in the Marines and had served in Korea.

Remembering that the other Veteran in the Honolulu hotel had been in the Marines and had also served in Korea, Schoen told him the other Vet’s name and asked if he knew him.

“That’s my brother!”

They had not seen each other in 60 years.

Remarkably, both brothers were wounded at the same time in Korea and woke up on the hospital ship USS Hope. When the ship reached shore, the brothers were separated.

The brothers lost contact because they did not have the same last name. One was raised by an aunt and uncle and had taken their last name.

The ultimate assistance

Schoen Safotu realized this was the ultimate assistance someone in his job could facilitate. He immediately swung into action and arranged for the brothers to reunite at the PIHCS Community Living Center.

The reunion was very emotional for everyone. The older brother, Vaiuli Tamaleaa, was recovering from a serious stroke and could not talk. But that night, he held his brother’s hand and clearly called out his name.

They were able to spend a couple of weeks catching up before, sadly, the younger brother, Malouamaua Katina, passed away.

That he was able to reunite with his long lost older brother, thanks to one quiet, curious question from a Patient Advocate, is truly a remarkable story.

Schoen eagerly shares the credit for the emotional reunion with Joan Foley.

“She asked around and remembered, since I was of Samoan descent, that maybe I could make a connection with Mr. Katina. It was her insistent care and love for the Veterans that made this reunion possible. She truly loves her job and the Veterans she serves.”

Teamwork and compassionate care from the Pacific Islands Health Care System made this happen.