On Tuesday, during a virtual observance, the National Capital Region celebrated the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance. This year’s theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”

NCR celebrates contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders to US Army

“The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry,” the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said.


On Tuesday, during a virtual observance, the National Capital Region celebrated the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance. This year’s theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”


Col. David Bowling, the commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, said the observance was about celebrating the important contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders sent to the nation historically and in today’s society.


“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have forged a proud legacy that reflects the spirit of our nation — a country that values the contributions of everyone who calls America home,” said Bowling. “Their rich heritage spans the world and the depth of America’s history. Generation after generation through times of hardship and in the face of enduring prejudice, these women and men have persisted and forged ahead to help strengthen our union.”


He pointed out that since 1990; the entire month of May has been designated to recognize the personal achievements and valuable contributions to the American story by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


“A service that creates positive cultures, empowers leaders to lead with values, offers frequent encouragement and feedback and puts employees first,” he said. “We celebrate the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, unique experiences represented among more than 56 ethnic groups, speaking over 100 languages from Asia and Pacific Islands who live in the United States.”


The month of May was chosen to commemorate the Japanese to the United States May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the Transatlantic Railroad completion, which was May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks of that nation-unifying railway were in fact Chinese immigrants, said Bowling.


“During today’s presentation, we are proud to present to you the District of Columbia Samoan congregation, a group that dates back over 35 years, and was established by former Congressman the Honorable Fofo Sunia from America Samoa,” he said. 


The Samoan congregation then performed dances native the Samoan and Pacific Islander culture. Some of the dances were influenced by today’s music.


Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Majeski, JBM-HH’s command sergeant major, said Asian and Pacific Islanders have historically served in the Army with great valor and distinction and continue to be essential members of the Army team.


“They play vital roles in today’s Army as Soldiers, Army civilians and Family members,” Majeski said. “Nearly 12,000 Army civilians and 59,000 Army Soldiers who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander serve in the total force. In 2014, the Army recruiting station in Pago Pago produced the most recruits the contributions and achievements of individuals of Asian Pacific Islander descent illustrates the strength of a diverse Army.”


According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the first Medal of Honor recipient was to U.S. Army Pvt. Jose Nisperos, from the Philippine Scouts Unit for this action Sept. 24, 1911. The one and only Medal of Honor awarded during peacetime was Jan. 21, 1915 to Second Class Telesforo Trinidad. Twenty-one of the 24 Medal of Honor recipients during World War II were Japanese Americans serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team or the 100th Infantry Battalion. In the Korean War, the first native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, Pfcs. Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano and Herbert K. Pililaau were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions on Sept. 1, 1951 and Sept. 17, 1951 respectively. During the Vietnam War, the three Asian Americans recipients the MOH were Cpl. Terry Kawamura, Staff Sgt. Elmelindo Smith and Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano. Thirty-three Asian American and Pacific Islanders have received this prestigious honor for their actions during war and in peacetime.


Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil.