Honoring Asian American Pacific Islanders this Memorial Weekend

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by Damien Tomkins
The famous “Go for Broke” 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, primarily Americans of Japanese descent, is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for size and length of service. Image: Hawai'i Army Museum Society

Asian-American Pacific Islanders have a long and distinguished record of serving in the US military. The earliest record for Asian Americans serving in the US Armed Forces dates back to the War of 1812 when General Andrew Jackson noted that Filipinos fought in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. More recently, former U.S. Army General Eric K. Shinseki served as Army Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2003, the highest ranking Asian American Pacific Islander in US military history, and today General Shinseki is Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  

Asian American Pacific Islander combat veterans are also represented in the current US Congress: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawai‘i, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth from Illinois and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa. The late Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawai‘i was a highly decorated WWII veteran who served with the famous 442ndGo for Broke” Infantry Regiment and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000. To date, 31 Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States.

Currently, there are more than 60,000 Asian-American Pacific Islanders serving in the US Armed Forces of whom over 9,300 are officers, and the US Census Bureau estimates that almost 300,000 Asian American Pacific Islanders have served in the U.S. military. The month of May was designated Asian American Pacific Islanders month by an Act of Congress in 1992, and this Memorial Day the contributions and sacrifices of Asian American Pacific Islanders, alongside their fellow Americans, are remembered.

To read more about Asia American Pacific Islanders Military Service and Sacrifice click here.