Sgt. 1st Class Chanthaly Jackson and five of her siblings all joined the service. Jackson, who immigrated to America from Laos in 1988 and joined the Army a decade later, explained her Family’s military contributions to guests of Fort Bragg’s 2017 Asian Pacific Heritage Month observance, held May 31, at the Noncommissioned Officers Academy.
“We wanted to give back to the U.S. for providing us with so much freedom and the opportunity to improve our lives,” said Jackson, choked with emotion. She is a Soldier assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Command.
Jackson joined other presenters who spoke about the sacrifice of service members — from Medal of Honor to Silver Star recipients of Asian-Pacific Islander descent — who have contributed to the strength of America’s Armed Forces. The presentation reiterated the theme of this year’s observance, “Unite our Voices by Speaking Together.” It was hosted by Team Bragg Equal Opportunity and by the 44th Medical Brigade.
Staff Sgt. Patience Taylor, an Airman with the 43rd Medical Operations Squadron, talked of the service of Nisei, or second generation Japanese Americans who served during World War II despite the history of internment camps following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Notably, Nisei service members filled the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, where they proved their loyalty to America in highly decorated units during the war.
Additionally, other presenters included Capt. Lloyd Lozada who talked about the history of the Bataan Death March, Capt. Kyungkun Lee (Korean American service members), and Spc. Benny Flores, who highlighted the service of Chamorro American veterans.
Thousands of marchers died of diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever and were forced to live off half rations and monkey meat, said Lozada. They were forced to march for 66 miles through the Philippines from April 9 to 15, 1942. Today, Bataan Death March survivors are remembered with an annual memorial march, and Lozada encouraged guests to join him March 25, 2018, in New Mexico, for next year’s commemoration.
Koreans first immigrated to America in 1903, primarily to Hawaii, where they worked on sugar plantations, Lee said. Like other immigrants, they, too, joined the Armed Forces.
Of special note was Maj. Fred Ohr, the only Korean war fighter during World War II and the only Korean Soldier to achieve the status of ACE (military aviator); Col. Young-Oak Kim, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, who was awarded 19 medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars; and Lt. Col. Herbert Cho Choy, who enlisted exactly one day after the attack at Pearl Harbor and served as a Judge Advocate General officer and went on to become the first Asian American federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1971.
According to Flores, Chamorro Americans from the U.S. territories of Guam and the Mariana Islands have served in the Armed Forces with distinction since the Spanish American War.
“No matter what, we are proud Americans,” he said. “We will overcome any challenges that are always in front of us and ensure that the mission is complete.”
The API observance also included lei presentations and a feast of API foods such as sushi, noodles, rice, and bulgogi as well as origami decorations.
Guests seemed to grasp the significance of API recognition.
It was great. It certainly kept with the theme of united voices by having current service members from all branches to talk about their heritage and their community’s contributions to our Armed Forces,” said Col. Paula Lodi, commander, 44th Medical Bde.
“It’s always important to recognize the contributions of minority groups that have come together to make our country that better,” said Master Sgt. Jason Beckles, a Fort Bragg Soldier who attended the observance.
Sgt. Natascha Glotzbach agreed.
As an NCO with the 257th Dental Company (Area Support), she said she encourages her Soldiers to learn about other ethnicities.
It’s a mantra that Jackson supports.
The U.S. is a melting pot and conflicts arise when ethnicities do not mutually understand each other.
“If I understand you and you understand me better, we are able to work together,” she said.