May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Commentary by Chief Warrant Officer Joseph P. Lyddane, 138th Field Artillery Brigade

AAPIHM_15_poster (May)FRANKFORT, Ky. — The transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 by Chinese immigrants and twenty-six years before that, on May 7, 1843 the first Japanese people began migrating to the United States. These are but two of the many reasons why the month of May was chosen to take the opportunity to recognize the contributions made by Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). They represent almost fifty countries with more than one hundred languages and dialects. According to the Census Bureau, there are 16.6 million AAPIs residing in the US which accounts for 5.4 percent of the US population and it is estimated that by 2050 that number will rise to about 42.6 million.

For generations Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have impacted the United States helping to develop and defend the country, often times amid racial and cultural prejudice. The American way of life has been improved by AAPIs through major contributions to athletics, public servitude, science initiatives, and artistic achievements, to name a few.

Click here for more information on Asian American Pacific Islander Month.

tanaka

Nicknamed Road Runner for her unflagging energy and enthusiasm, Carolyn Hisako Tanaka served in Vietnam in spite of a scarring childhood memory. At the age of six, she saw her family evicted from their California home in the wake of Pearl Harbor and relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. When the family returned to California after the war, they found their home burned to the ground. In 1966, as an emergency room nurse, she decided to enlist in the Army, telling skeptical friends, “I have a skill that is needed in Vietnam, and I’m going there to do my duty for my country.” Ironically, she returned from that war to a “welcome” that brought back bitter memories.

Daniel Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient who was wounded during WWII and served on the US Senate;  Patsy Mink was the first Asian American Congresswoman; Har Gobind Khorana was a significant contributor to discovering the genetic code and later won the Nobel Prize in 1968; Elaine Chao was President Bush’s deputy secretary of transportation and director of the Peace Corps in the early 90s; Maya Lin, a world renowned architect and designer of the Vietnam Memorial; and Norman Yoshio Maneta who served twenty years in the US House of Representatives.

Kanaya

As a youth, Jimmie Kanaya became fascinated with the military, and at 20 he jumped at the chance to enlist in 1941—months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After helping his parents relocate from their Oregon home to an Idaho internment camp, Kanaya took his skills as a medic to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He aggressively looked out for his men, even negotiating a halt to fighting to bring in casualties from the battlefield. Captured by German troops, he escaped three times and at war’s end was the only non-Caucasian in his POW camp. Kanaya continued to serve his country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

These are just some of the countless individuals who overcame adversity and made an impact.

Through partnerships like that of the United States and AAPIs we are able to broaden our horizons and enhance our effectiveness. Diversity is about acceptance; the U.S. military depends on it.

Take time this month to reflect on diversity and the benefits of including everyone. Research other cultures and educate yourself on what makes each of us different; by doing so you will discover how similar we all are and possibly gain a new perspective.

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