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NPS Community Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage
U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Michael Ehrlich

NPS Community Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

By MC2 Michael Ehrlich
 
Lead Assistant Registrar Heidi Woodward offers a hula lesson to NPS faculty and staff during the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration at the Roman Plunge, May 24. There are 24,743 Asian American and Pacific Islander Sailors currently serving as part of the Navy team, including eight admirals, 659 master chief and senior chief petty officers, and 318 officers. These Sailors represent more than 56 ethnic groups, speaking more than 100 languages from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.
 
“I was born and raised a military child overseas, but my family always made sure they instilled our culture wherever we went. There was always a great community of Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and I never felt like I was out of my culture,” said Woodward. “My dad enlisted in the Army straight out of high school, and after basic he married my mom. His first duty station in Frankfurt, Germany is where I was born, and why my name is Heidi.”
 
The expanding role of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Navy can often be traced to key points in 20th century conflict. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, for example, the United States enlisted more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers to defend U.S. territory from the advancing Japanese forces. NPS Protocol Staff CS1 Ralp Cubangbang has a direct family connection to this time in U.S. military history.
 
“One of my grandfathers was a member of the scout guerillas hired to the U.S. forces,” said Cubangbang. “They attached guerillas to U.S. forces acting as scouts. I think joining the Navy was a big privilege and I’m proud to be a part of the Navy, the Asian-American heritage, and I’m also proud that the Navy celebrates culture and diversity.”
 
Also part of NPS’ Protocol Staff, YNSN Johnmark Rivera recalls his great uncle’s stories of military service and duty in the Philippines.
 
“My great uncle died a long time ago, before I even came to United States. But I still remember hearing from him, ‘Napakasarap sa pakiramdam na magsilbi at tumulong sa kapwa,’ which means, ‘It brings me great joy to serve and help others,’” Rivera said.
 
“I was too young back then, and I don’t even remember everything that he was talking about,” continued Rivera. “But when my grandfather died last year in the Philippines, the only thing that he told me, before his last breath, was to return to USA because my life is here now, and to continue joining the military to serve the people and show the best of me. It gives me so much joy that I fulfilled my grandfather’s last will and nobody can take away the pride and honor of becoming one of the United States’ Sailors.”

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