Asian-Pacific population contributed much to US, military history

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By COL. STEVE YAMASHITA \ Military Police Officer Branch Chief, Human Resources Cmd

Diversity is a key ingredient of what makes our Army and our nation great. It is a diversity that comes from embracing cultural values and inclusion into the main culture of our American society. Our society is made up of people who: were already here; arrived on the Mayflower; became part of our country as a result of the Spanish-American War; entered through Ellis Island, and even those who came here not of their own free will.

All those who emigrated from all parts of the world helped write our nation’s history, especially during times of struggle and conflict. Some joined our military and helped to defend freedom at all costs.

Each May, we recount the ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contributed to our great nation. From those Asian Americans who fought in the Civil War, to the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, to modern day individual accomplishments made possible by those who came before—they are all examples in our history to remember.

One great example is the 100th Battalion that started out with 400 Japanese Americans from Hawaii, who instead of fighting in the Pacific Theater, fulfilled their duty in Europe where they fought in Southern Italy. They fought gallantly, earning six Distinguished Service Crosses in the first eight weeks of combat.

Their valor and sacrifice led to our nation recruiting and standing up an all-volunteer unit comprised of Asian-Americans, the 442d Regimental Combat Team. These units, these Americans, fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France, and Germany, earning more than 18,000 individual decorations, including 20 Medals of Honor, 53 Distinguished Service Crosses, nearly 600 Silver Stars, and seven Presidential Unit Citations.

Many of these Americans, proved their loyalty and patriotism, by fighting and dying, sacrificing for our nation, while many of their family members were interned within our own country’s borders. The legacy and lineage lives on today with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry based out of Hawaii, who most recently helped fight the war on terror in Iraq.

Another great example is the 1st Filipino Regiment created to enable Americans of Filipino ancestry as well as resident Filipinos to serve in our Army. This Regiment fought in World War II earning battle honors for its brave service in New Guinea, Leyte and Southern Philippines.

These are just two examples of service to our nation by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Albeit segregated, their distinguished service nevertheless helped pave the way and helped mold our service today as our military, our government, and our civilian sector is filled with Americans from all cultures.

There are even more individual contributions from people such as Indra Nooyi, who emigrated from India and became the CEO of Pepsi. Anh Duong emigrated from Vietnam and became the head of the Borders and Maritime Security in the Department of Homeland Security. Jerry Wang came from Taiwan at the age of 10 knowing only one word of English and went on to create the Yahoo website. Senator Dan Inouye received the Medal of Honor with the 442nd and served as a United States Senator for 50 years, culminating as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Our Army’s 34th Chief of Staff, Eric Shinseki, who also served as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Administration is from Hawaii.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a couple from my island, who may not be famous to you but where I come from, are big names, such as retired Command Sgt. Maj. Mariano Leon Guerrero, who went on to serve as the Ranger Regiment sergeant major and was inducted into their Hall of Fame. My personal hero, my grandfather, Petty Officer 1st Class Jesus S. Rivera, who served in our Navy and fought in the Korean War.

The list goes on and on and on with contributions of Americans from cultures originating

in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Samoa, Fiji, Guam, the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific or the Northern Marianas to list a few.

Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best: “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

Our nation continues to progress and we are better today because as a collective American culture, walk together in the pursuit of common goals and embrace our differences which adds to our great nation’s legacy. If each one of you, whether a service member, civilian, or Family member understands how important your individual contribution is and how important your service is to each other, our Army and our nation will continue to build its legacy.

NOTE: Join the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Waybur Theater May 24 at 11:30 a.m. to observe Asian and Pacific Islanders month. This year’s them is: “Walk Together, Embrace Differences, Build Legacies.” n