Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Alora

Detachment 2, G Company, 2-104 General Support Aviation Battalion, District of Columbia Army National Guard

Alora, a Black Hawk pilot, has served in the Army and the California and D.C. Army National Guard since 2010. He deployed to the Middle East for Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016. “I think the public forgets when it comes to the AAPI community that there’s been a lot of key leaders in the military and government who made profound impacts to American society. My grandfather on my dad’s side was part of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East — Filipino nationals serving under the U.S. government to combat the Japanese invasion."

Sgt. 1st Class Phaiphin Anongdeth

1225th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Michigan National Guard

Anongdeth joined the Guard in 2001 for the college benefits and to "repay the tremendous opportunities and blessings that the United States has bestowed upon both my family and me." She says this observance shows "we are a melting pot of heritage and cultures. Each of us adds our unique Asian American heritage to the United States, whether it be South or East Asia, Pacific or Polynesian islands. It makes me feel honored that I was given an opportunity to help shape our national’s identity and given the right to share my background with fellow service members."

Maj. Thomas Brooks

6-54 Security Force Assistance Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard

Brooks, a Purple Heart recipient, has served since 2004 and deployed to the Philippines in 2023-24. He says "people tend to forget how really diverse Asian culture really is, meaning that it just is not China, Japan or Korea that should only come to mind, but it is also India, the Philippines, Indonesia and many other countries. ... It is through education that barriers are broken down and people are brought closer together through mutual understanding of one another."

Tech Sgt. Chanthama Steve Chittanavong

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Chittanavong, a Guardsman since 2014, deployed to Kuwait in 2018-19. He says this month's observance "is a reminder to myself how I am grateful for my parents and grandparents who migrated to the United States of America in the '70s-'80s from Laos. Thus, making my two older siblings and I first-generation Asian Americans in our family."

Capt. Edward Cruz

Company B, 1-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Michigan National Guard

Cruz, a Black Hawk pilot, has served since 2010. He deployed to Iraq and Syria in 2019-2020 for Operation Inherent Resolve. "This observance is important to me because it highlights the fact that no matter your origin, immigrant or otherwise, the military provides a means and opportunity for anyone to succeed in life. The military comprises diverse backgrounds and origins, and minorities are provided opportunities for advancement they may not otherwise receive outside of the organization."

Spc. Cylus Edwards

2061st Multi Role Bridge Company, Kentucky Army National Guard

Edwards joined the Guard in 2019, continuing a family legacy of service. The highlight of his time in the Guard was annual joint training with foreign fire departments, FEMA, and local firefighters and first responders. "The observance to me is more so about spreading not only my but other Asian and Pacific Islander traditions and cuisines to share experiences and joyful moments with others. It also brings more Filipino food to the area I live in."

Maj. Jared Fujii

154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard

Fujii joined in 2007 to fly jets in the Hawaii Air National Guard just like his father did. He says the best part of serving "is knowing that I am able to give back to the community. Not only to serve and protect the state of Hawaii, but to be able to inspire the ‘keiki,’ the next generation, to do what they have a passion for and to know that the sky’s the limit." This month's observance underscores that "any person of any background or ancestry can go as far as they strive. Any time anyone can recognize the different accomplishments of people is special. If someone’s story is enough to inspire one child to pursue their dream, then that is a win."

Lt. Col. Eugene Harrigan

Joint Forces Headquarters, Minnesota Army National Guard

Harrigan has served since 1994 and deployed to the Middle East for Operation Inherent Resolve. A cyber warfare officer, he participated in State Partnership Program exchanges in Croatia and Norway. Harrigan considers this month's observance "an opportunity to honor traditions and culture within the Asian communities."

Maj. Gen. Lisa J. Hou, D.O.

Adjutant General, New Jersey National Guard

Hou joined the NJARNG in 1994 while a medical student. A Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal recipient, Hou has served in Afghanistan and Iraq and participated in State Partnership Program work with partners Albania and Cyprus. "AAPI month gives us a moment to pause and recognize the contributions and dedication of all Asian American and Pacific Islanders to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the United States. This is also a chance for us to remember that no matter what our backgrounds, we serve as important examples to those who follow in our footsteps."

1st Sgt. Clifford A. Kinsler

545th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard

Kinsler followed his father and brother into the military in 1999. He has deployed to Somalia and says the highlight of his service is the people — "they come from all walks of life and build friendships and comradery like none other." Kinsler says it means a lot to be able to highlight the Asian community "coming from a time where my family had to downplay our mother's heritage. To be able to see how far we have come in such a short time gives me great pride that I can teach my children the Vietnamese culture and it be acknowledged through the observance of Asian Heritage Month."

Capt. Joey Lee

113th Medical Group, District of Columbia National Guard

Lee was an active-duty service member for 10 years and joined the Guard in 2020. "My mom is Filipino and my dad is half Filipino half Chinese. They were both born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. My dad joined the Air Force and my mom was a nurse. He retired as a colonel at the Pentagon. I never thought I would want to join the military because of all the moves, but I decided to give it a try because I wanted to see the world. My first duty station was Italy, and I just blasted off from there."

2nd Lt. Charles Long

433rd Signal Company, Illinois Army National Guard

Long, a signal officer, was commissioned in 2022 and deployed to Kuwait in January. "This observance is a reminder of the unique contributions and sacrifices Asian service members have made, and it fills me with immense pride to see my heritage celebrated and recognized. Furthermore, it highlights the profound cultural diversity within our military and nation, a characteristic that distinguishes us from the majority of other countries. Embracing this diversity and the varied perspectives that come with it strengthens our collective ability to innovate, adapt and overcome challenges, ultimately fortifying our nation's resilience and unity."

Sgt. 1st Class Kayla Ann Kim Manuel

Headquarters & Headquarters 1st – 153rd Cavalry Regiment Squadron, Florida National Guard

Manuel joined in 2003 and has served in the Illinois, Georgia, California and now Florida National Guard. She also deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. "This month means a lot to me since it recognizes and celebrates contributions and achievements that women have made over the course of American history."

Staff Sgt. Sang Moua

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Minnesota National Guard

Moua, a Guardsman since 2010, deployed in 2011 for Operation New Dawn. The highlight of his service is the people he has met. He says this observance is an "acknowledgment of Asian service and contribution from country, state and community. A strand of thread to the fabric of America."

Senior Airman Inah Victoria Nessia

126 Supply Chain Operations Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard

Nessia, a supply technician, joined in 2020 "to get out of my comfort zone and prove (to) myself that the impossible can be possible." She recently deployed to Afghanistan for a C-130H retrograde special project. "For me, this observance promotes inclusivity and shines light on other Asian Americans who contributed or continue to contribute to the success of our mission. It also encourages awareness of individuals' backgrounds and cultures, particularly as our military adapts to the demands of a modern era."

Airman 1st Class Aaron Pangelinan

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Pangelinan joined the Guard in 2021 for the educational benefits and loves interacting with people from all walks of life and ages. "This observance is important to me because, as a Pacific Islander and for all islanders in general, family, unity, tradition and selflessness are pivotal parts of our culture. The Guard embodies all these things."

Capt. Tuan M. Pham

217th Brigade Support Battalion, Arkansas Army National Guard

Pham joined the Guard in 2006. "I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps, who served in the Vietnam War, then 9/11 hit, which only solidified why I wanted to serve this great nation." Pham deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. He says this month's observance "allows recognition to all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I feel there is a need for this recognition in hopes that other individuals with the same heritage will feel the need to serve as I did."

Brig. Gen. John Rattaporn Pippy

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters

Pippy, a Bronze Star Medal recipient, joined the Army in 1992 and the Pennsylvania Army Guard in 2004. He deployed to the Middle East for Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016-2017 and has participated in multiple State Partnership Program missions with Lithuania. Pippy, the son of a Thai mother and American father, says this observance "highlights the contributions of AAPI men and women throughout the history of our country and military. It reinforces the idea and shows that diversity within the military is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. For young service members, it highlights stories that can inspire the next generation."

Capt. Janice Rintz

National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, Arkansas National Guard

Rintz has served since 2014, a year after becoming a U.S. citizen. She deployed to Kuwait in 2016-2017. As a Filipino, she says this month's observance "is important to me because it is a time to celebrate my cultural roots and the heritage of my ancestors. It is a time to honor the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, customs and values that have been passed down through generations. It is a time to celebrate the unique contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders to American society, from food to art to innovation. It is an opportunity to promote understanding and solidarity among all Americans. It is about embracing and appreciating the richness of our shared heritage."

Staff Sgt. Llana Rojas

133rd Air Wing Maintenance Operations Flight, Minnesota Air National Guard

Rojas joined the Army Guard in 2016 and transferred to the Air Guard in 2022. She deployed in 2021 to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Originally from Cebu in the Philippines, Rojas says this month's observance "is important because it allows everybody to recognize all types of people from all over the world. ... I also appreciate seeing more recognition for the AAPI community."

Lt. Col. Ryan Rooks

District of Columbia Aviation Command, D.C. Army National Guard

Rooks, an Army aviator, has served since 2003, including a 2014 deployment to Iraq and Kuwait. "Diversity is a strength because it brings a significant amount of perspectives and backgrounds, and all of those factors will only strengthen an organization. I grew up in a predominantly homogenous community that wasn’t Asian, so being able to demonstrate my capabilities and my contributions to the overall community as an Asian and be recognized is something quite frankly that I cherish.”

Master Sgt. Kyra Santos

Detachment 1, Headquarters 154th Medical Group, Hawaii Air National Guard

Santos, an aerospace medical technician, joined in 2002. She helped respond to the Maui wildfire and attended the 2023 Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As unit training manager, she is coordinating training and engagements with State Partnership Program partners Indonesia and the Philippines. "My recent observance has opened up my eyes to realize there are so many areas in this entire world with different cultures and we need to respect them and take the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their ways of life."

Senior Airman Cameron Smith

189th Medical Group, Arkansas Air National Guard

Smith, an aerospace medical technician, has served since 2018. "I think it’s great that observances like this are happening throughout the year. It shows how far along society has come in terms of inclusion and acceptance."

2nd Lt. Mariah Spix

Golf Company, 39th Brigade Support Battalion, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Arkansas Army National Guard

Spix joined the Guard in 2021 and says it has helped instill discipline, a good work ethic, and a new sense of camaraderie. "This month means a great deal to me because I am both Asian American and a Pacific Islander. I love embracing my culture and this month specifically highlights it."

Master Sgt. Brian Tomasek

1935th Contingency Contracting Team, West Virginia Army National Guard

Tomasek joined the Guard as an infantryman in 2006 "because I did not think it was fair that military members had to deploy multiple times risking their lives and taking time away from their families while I was sitting at home." He deployed to Iraq in 2006, 2009 and 2019 and to Djibouti, Africa, this year. "This observance is very special to me because I was adopted from South Korea when I was a baby. I grew up in Oklahoma and did not see or interact with a lot of Asian Americans, so I am very happy to see Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders be recognized for their efforts and contributions in support of this great country and can serve as role models for the next generation. I am honored and proud to serve as an Asian American and credit my family and this country shaping me into who I am today."

Sgt. Justin Weaver

D Company, 1-224th Aviation Regiment, District of Columbia Army National Guard

Weaver, a UH-60 helicopter maintainer, joined the military in 2013 and the Guard in 2022. He is the first in his family to serve in the Army. "Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is about intentionally taking time to recognize all American history. Think about those who served and are no longer with us. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. There’s an abundance of freedoms, liberties, advancements and opportunities tied to their unwavering commitment and sacrifice.”

Staff Sgt. Yao Yao

113th Comptroller Flight, District of Columbia Air National Guard

Yao was active-duty Army for four years before joining the Guard in 2018. He grew up in a small town in China. "I think Asians and especially Chinese Americans are underrepresented in the military largely because (of) their misunderstanding of the military. I think I play the role to tell stories to other Asian Americans in terms of my own experience and my wife’s experience as well."