Commentary: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

An Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month poster sits on display. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Every May, the American government recognizes Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – an opportunity to honor proud Americans who can trace their ancestry to a variety of countries in Asia, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and for us to celebrate those who contribute in so many ways to the success of America.

This month, we want to honor those who stand up and fight for our nation, who’ve put their lives on the line, and continue to do so, for no other reward than a heart-felt “thank you.”

Last year, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation recognizing May as AAPI Heritage Month, stating, “Our nation is particularly grateful to the many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces, protecting the Nation, and promoting freedom and peace around the world.”

This special observance began in June 1977, when Frank Horton, from New York, and Norman Mineta, from California, called upon the President to make the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. In October 1978, President Jimmy Carter expanded upon the observance, making it an annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush extended the week-long celebration to a month. The official designation of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was signed into law in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese person who came to the country in May of 1843, and to mark the May 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which involved the labor of many Chinese immigrants.

Throughout America’s history, citizens from the AAPI community have made significant contributions to many fields, championing the American values of commitment, hard work, excellence, and perseverance. These AAPI community members have led the way in athletics, fields of science and medicine, industry, entertainment, and serving in the armed forces.

The AAPI community is made up of culturally and linguistically-diverse people, representing populations from many countries and islands. The diversity of these communities, and the value of diversity in the excellence of America, these are the values that we as Americans and as members of the Armed Forces hold near and dear to our hearts.

As Airmen, we are a family, and we reflect this in the camaraderie and fellowship we display every day. We may not realize it, but every day is incredibly memorable and significant, because we demonstrate the Air Force, and indeed humanity’s goal, of coming together under one banner. There are Asians, African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, as well as numerous other cultural backgrounds. But at the core, we are all Airmen and we are all human.

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