2022 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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1LT Alexander Allison

A Company, 146th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

Allison, a signal officer who joined the Guard in 2020, says this observance reminds him of the sacrifices "of countless Asian American families that aren’t commonly thought about or recognized." His mother immigrated from Vietnam and attended community college and became a pharmacist, while his grandfather, a doctor in Vietnam, worked in America as a janitor to support his family.

SSgt Demi Ameigh

159th Weather Flight, Florida Air National Guard

Ameigh, a Guard member since 2017, says his favorite part of serving was assisting Afghanistan refugees as part of Operation Allies Welcome. "Honestly, I am so 'Americanized' I actually forget that I’m Asian, so it’s a reminder that I have a background and what my great grandfather had to endure getting over to the United States and then eventually being able to serve our country in the Navy."

MSgt Tammy Annis

151 Force Support Squadron, Utah National Guard

Annis is from New Zealand and enlisted in the Guard in 2008, the year she became a U.S. citizen. "There is a kinship in the Polynesian community in Utah. We tend to gravitate towards one another because there is an unspoken understanding of our backgrounds and the way we were raised. There are so few of us in the Utah Air Guard and we don’t take it for granted any one member who shares a similar heritage."

CPT Joshua Aquinde

230TH Engineer Company, Hawaii Army National Guard

Aquinde says his grandfather, who served in the Army more than 30 years, inspired him to join the Guard in 2014. Highlights of his service include helping to build a school and community center in Indonesia and COVID mapping for the Hawaii Department of Health. "This observance is an extreme honor that represents the heroic efforts of everyone that came before me, who paved the way. From the unnamed leaders who overcame adversity to leave an honorable legacy, to my grandfather, mentors, and fellow service members. It is also a representation of those who will come after me. Their opportunity to show the world it doesn’t matter what belief, creed, color, or location you come from that dictates your aptitude in life. Rather it’s your actions and character in all things. To be a small part of this is a great privilege."

MSG Gao X. Blincoe

2nd Battalion, 205th Regional Training Institution, Washington National Guard

Blincoe has served 18 years, including in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. "I am the first generation born in the United States to Hmong immigrant parents. My grandfathers on both sides of the family fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War." She says this observance "means a lot knowing and seeing a broad spectrum of heritages being celebrated throughout the year to fully be aware of all the different backgrounds that represent the United States."

CPT Tiffany Cadenhead

792nd Chemical Company, Washington National Guard

Cadenhead joined the Texas Guard in 2011, influenced by her grandfather, a retired Air Force officer. She is biracial, with a father from Bangladesh and a mother with Scottish ties. "Observing the different cultures in the military makes us more inclusive. There are things I learn from people daily about their backgrounds that I would never have known. Embracing everyone's heritage is important as a melting pot of people in the military."

SSG Honggang Cai

56th Theater Information Operations Group, Washington National Guard

Cai, a linguist, joined the Guard in 2003 and recently deployed to South Korea. He calls himself "just another 'Joe' serving in the National Guard; unique but not special." He really appreciates this observance "as an excellent practice of freedom of speech and cultural recognition for the minorities who live in this great nation."

SFC Phanarat Cameron

S1 at Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Arkansas Army National Guard

Cameron's 14-year stint in the Guard included a mission to Texas to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. She says being a part of the Arkansas Guard is like gaining an extended family. "This program is important in helping educate people in the United States of America about different cultures and help everyone be more open and accepting of cultures different from their own. For example, in Thailand we are very proud of our Thai food and like to share the experience of a good meal with others."

CPT Laudy L. Choum

898 Brigade Engineer Battalion, Washington National Guard

Choum, a Cambodian refugee, served in the Marine Corps before joining the Guard in 2011 to "give back and serve the greatest country in the world." His experience with Asian culture included deployments to Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. This month's observance "remembers the struggles and success of Americans of Asian descent. It is an important part of our American history."

SPC Bethany J. Cravalho

117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Hawaii National Guard

Cravalho joined the Guard in 2019 and loves meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds. This observance "is important because it recognizes the diversity found throughout the various military services. I am ethnically Japanese and Native Hawaiian. Growing up in Hawaii, we are blessed to have influences from different cultures. I believe this 'melting pot' helps us see the value in those differences."

2LT Kealani Creech

115th Maintenance Company, Utah National Guard

Creech joined the Army Guard in 2020 through ROTC. "I love my Chinese heritage, but America will always be the land of my family and my home. In China, I was an orphan with very limited opportunities. In America, I have the freedom to pursue my dreams and protect what is important to me. I love America and am excited to be a part of an organization with countless other Soldiers who feel the same."

LTC Reena Emme

341st Military Intelligence Battalion, Washington National Guard

Emme has served in the military more than 30 years, joining at the age of 17 for the college benefits, to be independent and see the world. "I am very proud to be serving along so many other great Americans as a female Asian-American. The military is one of the institutions where diversity is a focus. It is slowly making changes to ensure inclusion of all groups are equal. It is essential to continue to highlight the contributions of Asian Americans and the many more minority groups that are not often being highlighted."

2LT Caramia Fo

303rd Cavalry Regiment, Washington National Guard

Fo has served almost four years, including domestic missions for COVID-19 and civil disturbances. An armor officer, she says this observance "means to me that the military is taking steps to recognize their Soldiers and is leading equality for all."

SFC Sunia Fonua

118th Transportation Company, Utah National Guard

Fonua, a 17-year Guard veteran, says "having the opportunity to work with some of our nation's best" has been the highlight of his career. He says the diversity of the Army highlights the U.S. motto, e pluribus unum (Out of many, one). "Our different ideas, strengthsand characteristics come together to support the exceptional democratic ideal of unity in diversity."

Tech. Sgt. Brent Hai Frohner

155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska National Guard

Frohner became a Guardsman in 2005, joining his father, sister, two brothers and an uncle in the Air National Guard. Just back from a couple of weeks supporting NATO missions in Germany, his favorite military moment was his first mission as a young Airman to Guam in 2007. Frohner was an oprhan in Vietnam and considers this observance an opportunity to embrace "my Asian heritage and having the opportunity to share and expose our culture to others."

Tech. Sgt. Bret Hung Frohner

Medical Group, 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska National Guard

Frohner joined the Guard in 2003 and serves with his brother, Brent. He deployed to Qatar in 2019 and has also served in Hawaii, Germany and Iraq. He considers this month's observance "recognition that many of us with Asian heritage have served our country past and present."

SFC Theresa Gualdarama

117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Hawaii Army National Guard

Gualdarama joined the Guard in 1999 and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The military is a lot like Hawaii, a melting pot of such diverse people that can come together as a community and thrive. Diversity is everywhere, and the fact that Hawaii was able to embrace each other speaks volumes as to how we can strive to be as a nation and, most importantly, as a human race."

1LT Justin Hara

C-Troop, 1-299th Calvary RST, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Hawaii National Guard

Hara joined the Guard in 2014, building on his family's legacy of more than 300 years of military service. "This observance period means a lot to me. The history of not only Hawai`i but the entire Asian-Pacific region is one that only recently has gotten exposure to the rest of the world. I hope that by sharing a small portion of my experiences, people will try to learn more about Asian-Pacific history on their own."

SGT Christopher Hubbart

Bravo Company, 146TH Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Florida Army National Guard

Hubbart says he joined the Guard in 2004 to learn how to become a better person. He was a brand new sergeant when he led a team for the first time on a 2008 deployment to Iraq. "It is really nice to recognize the culture and heritage of the Asian/Pacific Islander people."

SFC Makoto Ichikawa

Joint Force Headquarters, Utah National Guard

Since joining the Guard in 2009, Ichikawa has deployed to Afghanistan and Germany and says seeing the world has been the highlight of her military career. "I believe diversity of any kind makes the Army stronger. Observing and celebrating all heritage (or group) is a great effort to promote diversity and cohesion."

SGT Jack Kaa

213 Forward Support, Utah National Guard

Kaa counts the "strong bonds and friendships" he has made as the highlight of his more than five years of service in the Guard. He has a one-word response when asked what this observance means to him: "Freedom."

SSG Dollyadrienne B. Lainez

1-124 Infantry Battalion, Charlie Company, Florida Army National Guard

Lainez, a Guardsman since 2012, joined to challenge herself and prove to her family of Navy veterans that she could be an American Soldier. She is deployed in Jordan as part of Operation Spartan Shield and says this observance is a reminder "that diversity is a beautiful thing. ... My parents created a life for us so we can be in this country with opportunities. As a Filipino American, I can gladly say that not only did I take the opportunity presented to me but I will continue to serve our country with pride."

SGT Isaac R Latu

HHD 640th Regional Training Institute, Utah National Guard

Latu says the best part of his seven years in the Guard is participating in the state and national Best Warrior Competition. "I moved away from my home island at the age of 15. I arrived in the United States with nothing but a bag of clothes and extended family to greet me. Twelve years later, I am here in Utah with much to celebrate and gratitude for a country that recognizes my ethnicity and my culture."

SSG Lin Lin

341st Military Intelligence Battalion, Washington National Guard

Lin, a cryptologic analyst from China, has served more than 15 years, including a deployment to Afghanistan. He joined to fast-track his citizenship and polish his skills to go into law enforcement. His most memorable mission was helping to serve more than 2,000 families in his community during the COVID-19 pandemic. "As Asian Americans, we can use Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to share our culture with the community. We can promote all the positive contributions that our culture offers to society."

TSgt Herchelle Llanes

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Llanes joined the Army Guard in 2006 and the Air Guard in 2018 and has served on COVID missions and assisted victims of Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Dorian. "AAPIHM means a lot to me as a first-generation Filipino American to embrace my family’s history accomplishments and own endeavors year-round. I am the first in my family to be in both the Army and then Air Force, and it gives me great gratitude to be a part of awesome and inspiring organizations."

SFC Ricky Junior Manglona

420th Chemical Battalion, Washington National Guard

Manglona was motivated to join the Guard after 9/11 but had to wait until he finished high school 18 years ago. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and, recently, to Thailand as part of the State Partnership Program. "It means the world to me to see Asian American and Pacific Islanders get the recognition they deserve. Many people do not know that Asian American and Pacific Islanders were also persecuted throughout history and even more so during WWII in America."

SSG Angelica McMichael

415th Military Intelligence Company, Louisiana National Guard

McMichael joined in the Guard in 2010 to challenge herself. She has deployed to Afghanistan and served on hurricane and flooding disaster response missions. McMichael says being from Manila, "I am not treated differently than the Soldier sitting next to me. To the Guard, we are equal. I am recognized for what I contribute to the organization."

SGT Alexander Darren Nguyen

Joint Force Headquarters, Washington National Guard

Nguyen joined the Guard in 2017 to repay the United States for helping his family when they arrived from Vietnam. He says the highlight os his service has been meeting interesting people and traveling, including a deployment to Kuwait. "I feel very proud being who I am, as an Asian-American with rich cultural heritage and as a service member serving, protecting the people, community, and a country where I called my dear home: the US of A."

CW3 Hau Huynh Okada

Detachment 1, Golf Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Hawaii National Guard

Okada, an H-60M Black Hawk pilot, joined the Guard in 2006 and deployed to Iraq in 2018-2019. "I think that it’s great that Asian heritage month allows us to give special recognition to a group of people. As a first-generation immigrant from Vietnam, I am proud to be able to serve and give back to my adoptive country."

Staff Sgt. Anoulom Phimphivong

118th Wing, Tennessee National Guard

Phimphivong will mark 10 years in the Guard in December. Watching his unit grow and witnessing the enlistment of three of his brothers into the same wing are among the highlights of his service. Asked what this observance means to him, he said: "That I am a second-generation American and I bring a combined culture. I represent and try to live out American values as an Airman and a citizen, but I still have the remnants of my parents’ culture. Although my upbringing may be different, I will take up arms to support and defend the Constitution because its values are universal."

Senior Airman Anourath Phimphivong

118th Wing, Tennessee National Guard

Phimphivong says joining the Guard in 2019 was a great stepping-stone in his life. Adapting to military life was easier, he said, knowing that many share the same struggles. "At our lowest point, we are more united than ever." He welcomes Asian American Pacific Islander month for "prioritizing and honoring something that is close to me and my family."

Airman 1st Class Olay Phimphivong

118th Wing, Tennessee National Guard

Phimphivong joined the Guard in 2019 to improve himself mentally and physically. His favorite part of serving is "the people I came to bond with. They showed me people from many aspects of life and broadened my views of people." Asked about the significance of this month's observance, he said: "Truthfully, family is a big part of our lives as brothers and I love them. I feel that extends to those I’ve bonded with in the military as well."

Maj Sameer Puri

Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National Guard

Puri has served in the military for 22 years, with missions overseas for Operation Enduring Freedom and in India. He also supported the 2021 presidential inauguration and, most memorably, the Hurricane Katrina response in Louisiana. He calls this observance "undoubtedly significant for me; a surreal moment to think back to my heritage and roots. I am also reflecting on my journey as an immigrant from India now serving as an Army officer."

Maj Carl Reyes

141st Air Refueling Wing, Washington National Guard

Reyes joined the Guard in 2018 and says his favorite part of being in the military "really is the pride of serving my neighbors and nation with some of the best people next to me." His most memorable time in uniform was working on the flightline in Minot, South Dakota, for more than a week in minus 30-degree weather. Asked about the significance of this observance, he said: "I think representation is important, and part of that is telling everyone’s story."

CPT Melissa B Romig

110 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Missouri National Guard

Romig "fell in love with the culture of authentic leadership, what it meant to be a part of a team, and doing something for the greater good," and has served in the Guard for 13 years. "This observance is special to me because as mentioned, the cultural melting pot of our service is incredibly beautiful to me. What other organizations can you find people putting aside their personal differences with the understanding that we are 'One Team, One Fight?' But at the same time, it is incredibly important for us to honor our heritage and the things that make us different."

LTC William Saint

Joint Force Headquarters, Louisiana National Guard

Saint has served in the Guard since 1996, including deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve. Highlights include blowing up bridges in Iraq and leading his team in saving a first responder's life in a hasty swift water rescue during flooding in Louisiana. This observance "makes my family proud to see our (Korean) heritage honored. It’s important to showcase how diverse our force is so we can learn from one another’s experiences, cultureand point of view."

Airman 1st Class Khongsinh Savathvongxay

118th Medical Group, Tennessee National Guard

Savathvongxay, a health administration specialist who hopes to become a neurologist, joined the Guard four years ago. The highlight of his service so far was assisting with COVID-19 testing during the pandemic. "AAPI heritage month means remembering and honoring where we came from, the struggles our ancestors had to go through. I may be American and grew up with both American and Lao values, but that doesn't mean I should cast aside my history as a means of integrating in this society."

SFC Lance Shimamoto

56th Theater Information Operations Group, Washington National Guard

Shimamoto has served almost 21 years, including two deployments to Iraq. "Heritage appreciation is not something that I just decide to do one day; it is something that I do every day. This observance allows others that are not around Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders an opportunity to share and understand our traditions, beliefsand ways of life."

SMSgt Bhambra Singh

105th Force Support Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Singh has served the Guard for 18 years, in New York, Nevada and Texas, and has deployed overseas several times. This month's observance "means a lot because after 17 years in service, I was able to receive a religious accommodation to serve my faith and the country at the same time."

SGT Xiaotian Wang

341 Military Intelligence Battalion, Washington National Guard

Wang has been in the Guard more than six years. The highlight of his service has been surviving Ranger School. "I am the first-generation immigrant in my family. I always have a sense of duty and believe that serving in the military will be a unique chapter in my life."