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Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Throughout the month of May, we are going to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the AAPI community by highlighting a few exceptional members of this group and sharing their amazing accomplishments with our audience through the AtEase magazine and our social media.

This photo of the 442 Regimental Combat Team was taken at Iolani Palace in Hawai'i, prior to their departure for training.

Nika Nashiro, March 1943, 442 Regimental Combat Team, gelatin silver print. Image taken from DVIDS.

The AAPI community includes approximately 50 ethnic groups from 40 countries on the continent of Asia and the Pacific Islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Starting as early as The War of 1812, this group has contributed meaningfully to our military history. Despite suffering discrimination and segregation at the hands of our federal government, this community of individuals has stepped forward to serve our country time and again. As of 2020, there were 17,440 people of AAPI heritage serving in the US Air Force. This means, more than 5 out of every 100 Airmen are Asian American or Pacific Islanders.1

The Medal of Honor is the highest distinction one can receive when serving in any branch of the United States military. This medal has been awarded to 33 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders spanning multiple wars and decades.2

One such individual is Daniel Inouye, who served in the US Army during WWII and then went on to serve as a United States Congressman for 53 years. His story is the first highlight in our AAPI series for the month of May.

Daniel Inouye

Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye served in the US Army during WWII and as a United States Congressman for 53 years.

On December 7, 1941, 17-year-old Daniel Inouye witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Already a volunteer for the Red Cross, he immediately sprang into action and began administering aid where he could.2 This experience impacted him so profoundly, he decided to join the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, he was unable to enlist due to discrimination levied against so many Japanese Americans at the time. The federal government imprisoned roughly 120,000 individuals of Japanese heritage during WWII due to unfounded fears of espionage.3

Although this treatment may have discouraged many, Daniel and others like him went on to petition the government to allow Japanese Americans to serve. This action resulted in a reversal of the decision and the creation of several Japanese American battalions. Daniel Inouye, a student of medicine at the University of Hawai'i, abandoned his studies to join the fight for freedom. He was assigned to the 442 Regimental Combat Team and departed for training in March of 1943.2 This selfless and brave act was the first of many and would prove Inouye to be an asset in the fight against fascism.

Daniel fought in WWII until he sustained an injury so severe his arm had to be amputated. After returning to the States and with his hopes of becoming a surgeon ruined- Daniel enrolled in college and eventually obtained his law degree. Daniel was elected as one of Hawaii's first delegates in the US House of Representatives and went on to serve a total of 53 years in the United States Congress.

Daniel Inouye's legacy paved the way for future AAPI individuals. He was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress and consistently fought against racial injustice and discrimination. His story is truly an example of overcoming adversity and exemplifies the American Dream.

After serving his country for his entire adult life, Daniel Inouye was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000.

Local Spotlights

Daniel K. Inouye is our first spotlight for the month, but we have several LOCAL SPOTLIGHTS we want to share with you throughout the month of May! Each Wednesday during the month, keep an eye out on our social media - and add this page your bookmarks - for the next individual's story!

BUT FRST! Join us for a special story time collab at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Library on May 9th. We will be celebrating and recognizing both Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage with hand-picked stories to share with you and your littles.

A1C Shaely Rose Dela Cruz

Cultural Background: Hawaiian

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: "Something I wish was more widely known/practiced from my culture was the language. Hawaiian language is so beautiful. At one point it was banned in schools and the language slowly died. It has, though, been coming back and it's been thriving. I hope more people will learn my language."

Fun Fact! Hawai'i's island chain has 132 islands but only 7 of those are inhabited!

SMSgt Arjay Eaton

Cultural Background: Born and grew up in the Philippines.

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: "Kamayan style dining. Kamayan style dining is also known as a "Boodle Fight", named after the Filipino "army style" of eating where long tables are prepared and food are on top of the banana leaves. A meat, seafood, or vegetable dish and rice are ready to eat using your bare hands, jugs of water are prepared on the side to wash hands before the 'eating combat'. With the signal to start the boodle fight, everyone aims for his/her position." Your hands may get gooey, but your heart will be melting so you won't care. The Filipino Boodle Fight is hands down the undisputed champion of fiesta feasting."

Fun Fact about Arjay! "Being able to speak a foreign language gave me an opportunity to participate in the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) where I can support the application of air and space power through cultural understanding, strengthening partnerships, and interoperability with our military partners."

Danica Cote

Cultural Background: Filipino-American

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: "The Philippines is such a complex country with thousands of islands, and within these islands comprised of various ethnic/indigenous groups and their individual traditions. I think they are often overshadowed by its long history of colonialism by Spain and US. These indigenous groups should be celebrated and acknowledged more in the media. For example, I love that a prominent magazine like Vogue would feature an indigenous tattoo artist like Apo Whang-Od. It brought focus on her designs and ancient traditional style of 'mambabatok'. I wish people knew more about them whose traditions and practices survived all these years."

Fun Fact about Danica! "I believe that I don't belong in just one culture. I was born in the Philippines but grew up a 'military brat' and yes, I am proud of it. I consider myself multicultural because I was lucky enough to experience many different cultures from the Philippines to S Korea, then Hawai'i and Germany. These places have shaped who I am today, and I'd like to share that to my children."

Danica is a member of The Island Pearls! Check out their page on Facebook!

Maj Christopher Lin-Brande

Cultural Background: Chinese American

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: "Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and typically occurs in February. Red envelopes filled with coins are given out as a symbol of prosperity. At least in my family, it was traditional to wear something red and not shower that day (as to not wash away the luck of the new year). This is not always recommended."

Family Recipe! "My family's recipe for wontons/pot stickers includes combining ground pork with shredded napa cabbage (salted in a colander to drain the liquid) in a ratio of one's choosing, then seasoning the mixture with soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, white pepper, scallions, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and wrapping in wonton skins. These are steamed/fried and enjoyed with a soy-vinegar-sesame oil or sweet chili dipping sauce."

  1. Department of Defense Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. "2020 Portrait of Asian/Pacific Islander Active Duty Service Members." Department of Defense. 2020. Accessed April 18, 2023.
  2. Bamford, Tyler. "Medal of Honor Recipient Daniel Inouye Led a Life of Service to His Country." The National WWII Museum. July 19, 2020. Accessed April 12, 2023.
  3. National Park Service. "Terminology and the Mass Incarceration of Japanese American during World War II." 2021. Accessed April 11, 2023. 
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Wednesday, June 07, 2023

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