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Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month
Posted: May 16, 2022
Categories: Committees
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From the NFRW Armed Services Committee

May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the histories of Americans hailing from across the Asian continent and from the Pacific islands. 

In a memorandum date April 28, 2022, Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., stated: “The Department celebrates May 1-31, 2022, as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, acknowledging the contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in defending America's freedom.

"This year's theme, 'Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration,' recognizes the collective benefits resulting from a spirit of community, cooperation, and cultural engagement. Despite racial and ethnic barriers to advancement, generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders sacrificed, and continue to serve, as military members and civilian employees.

"In 2021, they comprised approximately 8 percent of DoD' s enlisted force, 6 percent of the commissioned officer corps, and 12 percent of civilian employees. There are many leaders from the Asian American Pacific Islander community who served in DoD with distinction and in mission critical positions such as Vice Admiral (Retired) Raquel C. Bono, former Director, Defense Health Agency; Dr. David Chu, former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; and General (Retired) Eric Shinseki, the first Asian American 4-star General and 34th Chief of Staff of the Army.”

Celebrations began in 1978, with Congress passing a resolution for a 7-day observance in 1979. In 1990, President George W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress to extend Asian-American Heritage Week to a month; May was officially designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month two years later.

Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been serving honorably in the United States Military since the War of 1812. The first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was to US Army Private Jose Nisperos, from the Philippine Scouts Unit for his actions on September 24, 1911. The one and only Medal of Honor awarded during peacetime was received by Second Class Telesforo Trinidad, a Philippine American, for his heroic actions saving his fellow shipmates when a boiler caused a chain reaction of explosions on January 21, 1915.   

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States established Internment Camps for citizens of Japanese heritage. Despite having their loyalty to the United States questioned, many of these individuals still chose to enter the armed services. The 100th Infantry Battalion later known as the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, was a segregated Japanese-American unit. This unit fought in the European Theater of Operations. 

In the entire history of the U.S. Military, 442nd and was the most decorated unit for its size, length of service (2 years), and valor. In total, about 14,000 men served in this unit, earning approximately 9.5 thousand Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations. Twenty of the Medals of Honor were not received until 2000 after a review of the unit’s records. In the Pacific Theater of Operations some Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans served as translators and interpreters in the Military Intelligence Service. 

A total of 31 Asian American and Pacific Islanders have received the Medal of Honor for their actions during war and in peacetime.




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