Celebrate diversity during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Aimee Malone
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage MonthThe Department of Defense and the Air Force celebrate May as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

This heritage month began in the late 1970s with Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In 1990, the observance was expanded to a month to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese person to the United States on May 7, 1843. May also marks the anniversary of the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad, which was built partly by Chinese immigrants.

It now encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Hawaii, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There are more than 23 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States, according to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

They “have long played an essential role in writing the American story,” states the 2022 presidential proclamation for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month. “From serving our country in uniform, advocating for civil rights, starting new businesses, and winning Olympic medals, the contributions of the AA and NHPI community touch the lives of Americans every day.”

“This year's theme, ‘Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration,’ recognizes the collective benefits resulting from a spirit of community, cooperation, and cultural engagement,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. in an April 2022 memo.

“Despite racial and ethnic barriers to advancement, generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders sacrificed, and continue to serve, as military members and civilian employees. In 2021, they comprised approximately 8 percent of DoD's enlisted force, 6 percent of the commissioned officer corps, and 12 percent of civilian employees.”

More information on the diverse cultures and experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the military can be found at the Defense Department’s website. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s website offers a variety of resources throughout the year.