2021 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Senior Master Sgt. Raweewan Buppapong Andrews

235th Civil Engineer Flight, Maryland Air National Guard

Andrews calls her decision to join the military in 2003 the best decision of her life. Seeing the world - even a dangerous place like Afghanistan – has been intriguing and priceless, she says. This observance is an opportunity for Americans to "recognize the diversity in our country," particularly when "Asian American and Pacific Islanders are under attack and suffering from hatred and racism. It is vital that we educate everyone of the diversities in the Asian and Polynesian cultures. We can try to stop racism and hate crimes through education and familiarization of these cultures."

1st Lt. Erica Bermensolo

101st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, Idaho Air National Guard

Bermensolo followed her brother into the Guard 14 years ago in New Jersey, transferring to the Idaho Air Guard in 2012. "To me, this observance means acceptance and a sense of belonging in the vast pool of backgrounds that make up the military population. It's encouraging to be comfortable with my identity as an Asian American when observed in a positive way."

Staff Sgt. Jake H. Boholst

Joint Forces Headquarters, Nevada Army National Guard

Boholst joined the military in 2003, motivated by 9/11 and a family history of service. A Filipino-American, Boholst says this observance is a "validation of our heritage and culture's contribution in serving our nation with pride and honor. This commemorates those who gave the ultimate sacrifice despite many hurdles in the past and for those who have served or are currently serving."

Senior Master Sgt. Conrado Caducio

213th Engineering and Installation Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Caducio is of Filipino descent and joined the military 35 years ago. Now deployed to Germany, he says this month's observance means nothing to him. "Why? Because in my unit with its diversity - race, ethnically, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and the feeling of inclusion - every day is Asian Pacific Islander Day."

Tech. Sgt. Timothy J. Carter

386 Expeditionary Communications Squadron, 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon National Guard

Carter joined in 2007 and is deployed in Kuwait. His favorite part of serving is helping people in need during natural disasters, including hurricanes and fires. Half Japanese, he says this observance is a nice highlight. "In my opinion though, the military doesn't see race. We're just a fighting force comprised of people that value hard work, team players, and honest people with integrity."

Lt. Col. Michael Chan

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Chan was in search of discipline when he joined the military in 1991. Now squadron commander of the 118th Wing, he does not celebrate this observance. "I appreciate the observance but not necessary. I am an American, the rest are details."

1st Lt. Brian Chung

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 250th Brigade Support Battalion, New Jersey National Guard

Chung has served nearly 10 years. This observance, he says, "means progress to me. It shows the military is reflecting modern times and moving forward with the country rather than sticking to old values. Allowing contributions from minority groups allows for better awareness of nuances between Soldiers and a closer look at what backgrounds Soldiers may hold. Recognition of cultural differences within our forces allows for better cohesion for further success in the mission."

Staff Sgt. Robbie A. Day

Joint Forces Headquarters, Nevada Army National Guard

Day, whose family came to the United States 10 years ago, has served in the military since 2013. He has a pilot's license and hopes to fly the KC-46A Pegasus one day. "I'm truly appreciative for this opportunity that America gave to me and I want to give something back."

Airman Alexis K. Duclayan

152d Force Support Squadron, Nevada Air National Guard

Duclayan is a full-time student from Oahu, Hawaii, who joined the military in 2019. Asked about this observance, she said, "The Air National Guard opens doors to great opportunities in this world, giving myself the chance to gain knowledge as well as to explore the world that we are a part of."

Lt. Col. Christine Estacion

175th Medical Group, Maryland Air National Guard

Estacion was working as a software engineer when she decided to join the Guard in 1995. Asked about this month's observance, she said, "This one is important to me, as it is the one I best identify with."

Senior Master Sgt. Gianina D. Esteban

124th Fighter Wing, Force Support Squadron, Idaho Air National Guard

Esteban has served since 2009 and says the highlight has been the friendships she has made. "I'm of Filipino descent and from Guam. Guam and the Philippines are part of the Pacific Theater significantly impacted during World War II. This observance to me is homage: 1. to the Filipino prisoners of war in the Bataan Death March who fought alongside and aided American troops. 2. to the islanders of Guam who also lost so much during the same campaign."

2nd Lt. Dong Hee Lee

250th Brigade Support Battalion, New Jersey National Guard

Lee, who came to the United States from South Korea in 2005, says the Guard opened new opportunities and perspectives since he joined in 2015. "Throughout the leaders and peers I have met in the National Guard, I was able to identify what right looks like and what a servant leader is supposed to be."

Tech Sgt. Steven Lovan

148th Civil Engineer Squadron, Minnesota Air National Guard

Lovan, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, joined the Army 10 years ago and the Air National Guard in 2015. "It is great to have a small demographic recognized in the Air National Guard. Hopefully this observance will bring awareness to Asian Americans in the ANG and bring more diversity to our ranks."

Airman 1st Class Ruey (Richie) Luu

177th FW Communications Flight / Cyber Transport Systems, New Jersey Air National Guard

Luu has served since 2018 and calls being a part of the 177th FW the best decision of his life. He says this observance means "that America is a nation united in one fight. It doesn't matter what part of a continent you're originally from, but what you bring to the table. I'm proud to serve and contribute as an American of Taiwanese descent and contribute to the Air Force with the skills I've been taught."

Tech. Sgt. Maribel Garcia Mesina

130th Medical Group, West Virginia Air National Guard

Mesina, who joined in 2012, says learning something new every day and using that to help others is the highlight of her service. This month means a great deal to her. "My parents were from the Philippines and came to the United States to find a better life for them as well as my sisters and I. They worked so hard to build a foundation from scratch for our family. Our culture is beautiful and being able to share it with others is so rewarding."

Staff Sgt. Kai Mitchell

Logistics Readiness Squadron, Minnesota Air National Guard

Mitchell, a fuels specialist, joined the Guard in 2009 and enjoys networking and developing new friendships. He says these observances "provide opportunities to gain knowledge of other cultural backgrounds of fellow servicemembers. Since the military is comprised of people from all backgrounds, increasing knowledge of other cultures can improve interpersonal relationships and camaraderie."

Sgt. 1st Class Mike Nguyen

Bravo Company, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Nevada National Guard

Nguyen joined the military in 2003 and considers deployments to Bosnia/Kosovo and Afghanistan highlights of his service. "The military has been exponentially getting better at recognizing backgrounds and cultures so I have gained more respect for our leaders and Soldiers. It is a nice reminder that even though I am a born and raised 'Vegas baby,' my culture and upbringing set up my foundation for morals that I try and display on a daily basis."

1st Sgt. Michelle Ochoa

Bravo Company, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Nevada National Guard

The 9/11 terrorist attacks prompted Ochoa to join the military in 2002 to keep her friends, family and country safe. "This observance means so much to me, because we did not use to have the kind of diversity in the military like we do now. The Nevada Guard now is a multicultural melting pot. We are so diverse in so many different ways. We have Soldiers from every culture that you can think of and can still call each other brothers and sisters."

Senior Master Sgt. Christina Rohrenbach

124th Force Support Squadron, Idaho Air National Guard

Rohrenbach, who has served for more than 13 years, considers herself Black and Asian. "Every person and every race makes this world, but recognizing and appreciating our differences is what makes it a beautiful place. You can't appreciate a rainbow if you aren't able to see all the wonderful colors that make it so beautiful."

Lt. Col. Evangeline Tennort

175th Medical Group, Maryland Air National Guard

Tennort, a Medical Service Corps officer, started as active-duty military in 1999 and joined the Florida Air National Guard in 2012 and the Maryland Guard in 2016. "This is a time to remember the diversity in our nation and contributions to our rich history, specifically our fellow Asian Pacific and Pacific Islander Americans. We can learn so much from the leaders, mentors and educators that came before us."

Lt. Col. Jade Texcell

175th Medical Group, Maryland Air National Guard

Texcell is an optometrist who has served on medical deployments in the Philippines, Cameroon and Panama, and as an interpreter for a POW-MIA mission in Vietnam. This observance, she says, is "a time to self-reflect on how my heritage has shaped who I am today. ... It presents an opportunity to strive for a future where each individual's culture and heritage is respected."

Staff Sgt. Sokthey Tum

Recruiting & Retention Battalion, Rhode Island Army National Guard

Tum joined in 2003 and says his favorite part of serving "was when I was deployed, I got to serve next to people that I hardly even knew that ended up becoming family." He is a first generation Cambodian American. "My family came to America with nothing. Both my parents work from the time they came to America."

Capt. Peter T. Vu

155 Medical Group, Detachment 1, Nebraska Air National Guard

Vu's father was serving with the Air Force in Vietnam when his family was evacuated during the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam War. "I really never knew there was such an observance for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I was brought up to be very humble and not to attract attention. ... Now that I am aware of such an observance, I am happy to highlight how diversity in cultures within a team allows for a wider spectrum of talent, thus increasing the overall capabilities of the team."

Staff Sgt. Wei Wang

105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Wang joined the Air National Guard a year ago after serving in the Navy and looks forward to traveling to countries he has never been before. He came to the United States when he was 17. "At that time, I knew nothing about this country, not even the language. After four years in the high school, I met a lot of friends who gave me advice to join the military to learn more about the U.S. and culture."

Col. Edwin Anthony Wymer

Joint Force Headquarters, State Surgeon's Office, New Jersey National Guard

Wymer was inspired by his father, who was in the Air Force, to join the military 25 years ago. A pediatrician, he says this observance "honors another segment of America that makes the United States such a diverse and wonderful nation. ... I'm proud of my Asian heritage and committed to serving my country and my local community."