DoD Helps Group Celebrate Asian-Pacific Heritage Month
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
SAN FRANCISCO, May. 20, 2004 The Defense Department and the Federal Asian Pacific American Council came together here May 19 to honor the heritage and culture of Asian-Pacific Americans.
A joint-service honor guard pays tribute to fallen Asian-
Pacific American heroes May 19 during a DoD-Federal Asian Pacific American
Council observance May 19 in San Francisco. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was the keynote speaker at a joint DoD-FAPAC luncheon.
Chu, the most senior Asian-American in the Defense Department, helped to hand out meritorious service awards to nine service members, most of whom were recognized for their contributions to diversity and equal opportunity for Asian-Pacific Americans in the federal workplace.
In his address, Chu said the theme for this year's conference and ethnic celebration -- "Freedom for All, A Nation We Call Our Own" -- is appropriate because it relates to the contributions that Asian-Pacific Americans have made to the nation's history and its armed services. He said Asian-Pacific Americans' participation in the military dates back to the early years of the republic and the War of 1812.
Asian-Pacific American also served during the Civil War and World War II, he said. Japanese-Americans were denied entry into the military in 1943, he noted, but they later were admitted and became part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team that earned more than 18,000 individual decorations for valor during campaigns in Italy and France.
Even today, he said, the legacy of Asian-Pacific Americans in the fight for freedom lives on. Chu told the story of Army Spc. Roger Ling, a Chinese- American, who served with the 1st Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said Ling was one of several Asian-Pacific Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Ling, an armored vehicle driver and the son of Chinese immigrants, was killed in February when the convoy he was traveling in was ambushed. He earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals for his actions in combat, Chu said, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The undersecretary spoke of the accomplishments of other Asian-Pacific Americans in the military. He pointed out that retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who is of Japanese descent, rose to the highest rank. And he noted that a leading investigator into abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, is from the Philippines.
Chu told the group that ethnic observances allow the Defense Department to "recall the origins of our population, but at the same time reaffirming that we are indeed all Americans."
Officials said this year's joint ethnic observance was a large success for both DoD and the Federal Asian Pacific Heritage American Council, which was holding its 19th annual national leadership training conference.
FAPAC, established in 1985, is the oldest organization of Asian-Pacific Americans in the federal government. Its mission is to promote equal opportunity and cultural diversity within the federal government.
The conference featured job fairs, training workshops, and seminars from several government and civilian agencies. More than 1,000 attendees registered for the weeklong event.
Krupakar B. Revanna, FAPAC president, said having the Defense Department take part in the council's leadership conference is a reminder that "Asians are taking an active role in making the country secure and protecting our freedom."
"We are very proud to see Asians wearing the uniform from various branches of service, and we are proud of those who support them in their mission," he said.
Service members recognized during the ceremony were:
- Army Sgt. Maj. Yong K. Park, a Korean-American currently serving in South Korea, for improving civil rights and race relations in his community through church activities and Asian-American cultural appreciation programs.
- Navy Lt. Cmdr. Romuel B. Nafarrete, for improving race relations and crew cohesion aboard the USS John Stennis, homeported in San Diego, by redefining diversity policies and practices.
- Navy Reserve Lt. Justin R. Hodges, who distinguished himself as an outstanding leader and active proponent of increased opportunities for Asian-Pacific Americans.
- Marine Corps 1st Lt. Philip J. Tadena, who while assigned at Camp Pendleton, Calif., helped introduce a bill in the California state legislature that encouraged including the role of Filipinos in World War II and Southeast Asians in the "Secret War" in Laos as part of the state's social sciences curriculum for grades 7-12.
- Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Dollente, who served as president of the Asian Pacific Islanders Association and chairman of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee while assigned to the 615th Air Mobility Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif.
- Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Robert K. Suenaga, whose service in Iraq as a loadmaster aboard a C-17 Globemaster III earned him recognition. Suenaga was an integral part of the C-17 aircrew that conducted the largest nighttime single-pass airdrop since World War II, as well as the first to use the C-17's Global Positioning System technology.
- Army National Guard Spc. Huong Huynh, who was recognized for her community involvement. In her spare time, she mentors students at the local high school and volunteers to assist needy families in her community in California.
- Air National Guard Maj. Gina-Altaire T. Alzate, who received the award for helping Asian-Pacific American high school students develop artistic skills as part of the Asian Arts Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. Students in the programs have created murals throughout the city.
- Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Cynthia Moneda, who organized cultural events that contributed to increased understanding of the Asian- Pacific American community. She also provides administrative assistance to the Philippine-American Military Retiree Association.
Several Defense Department civilians were recognized by FAPAC during an earlier awards ceremony:
- Kibong Kim of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, who received the award for outstanding individual achievement.
- Olivia F. Adrian of the Air Force and Joan Ma Pierre of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, who received excellence in individual leaderships awards.
- Air Force civilian Elizabeth Arce, Deborah A. Robinson of the Defense Logistics Agency, and Francis Summers, Defense Contract Audit Agency, who received awards for diversity excellence.