JB MDL celebrates the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By 1st Lt. Jaclyn Sumayao | Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs | May 30, 2019


Private First Class Min Soo Choi. Airman Apprentice Joseph Min Naglak.

These aren’t household names, but during the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPIH) month of May, Joint Base MDL took the opportunity to honor these local service members from Asian/Pacific Islander descent.

AAPIH was carefully chosen to be observed during May due to two important dates in the middle of the month. The first Japanese immigrant traveled to the United States on May 7, 1843. On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed due to Chinese immigrants making up the majority of workers.

“This year’s theme was ‘Unite our mission by engaging each other’,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eugene Pamplona, 305th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant and Vice Chairman for this year’s Joint Base MDL AAPIH Committee. “The phrase captures the leadership, inclusion, persistence, relationships, effort, and dedication of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout the United States. Whether they are civilians or military members, it represents the diversity of the community, each with their own cultures, traditions, and history.”

The 2019 Joint Base MDL AAPIH Committee hosted various events throughout the month of May to not only celebrate, but educate everyone on the remarkable accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that have enriched our country and helped define our history.

During this time, they recognized those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Choi was originally from South Korea. His family moved to River Vale, New Jersey in 1998, then he joined the Army and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry. 

On February 26, 2006, Choi was killed when an explosive device detonated while he was on patrol in Abertha, Iraq. He was 21-years old and died just one month after being deployed. A memorial plaque for Choi sits in front of the Wrightstown Gate at Joint Base MDL.

Airman Apprentice Naglak, a native to New Jersey, enlisted in the Navy, April 2017. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush four months later. While working on the flight deck, Naglak was struck by a turning propeller of an E-2C Hawkeye on September 17, 2018. He was also 21-years old and recently engaged when he died.

Both of their stories and photos were shown during the 2019 AAPIH Celebration at Tommy B’s Community Center located on the installation, May 20.

“The event stressed the importance of honoring these fallen service members,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Mary Salgado, Armed Services Whole Blood Processing Laboratory director and co-chairman for the AAPIH committee. “We express our gratitude to those from the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for bringing the traditions, strength, and honor to the diversity of the United States.”

The event also consisted of cultural demonstrations. There was a fashion show showcasing the significance of traditional Asian/Pacific Islander’s clothing, and a food tasting featuring different countries’ cuisine.

The guest speaker for the celebration was Karen Delgado Jarvis, a Filipino-American that was born and raised in the United States. She is a long-time advocate of Asian American/Pacific Islander representation and equal treatment. 

“In the face of this ugliness … despite laws, practices, discrimination and violence against them, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders persevered and fought for their rights,” stated Jarvis. “They were determined to maintain their dignity and self-respect. They didn’t want to be viewed as the ‘forever immigrant.’ They wanted to assimilate. They wanted to be Americans.”

The AAPIH Committee also hosted other events for the observed month. A cake-cutting ceremony took place in the beginning of May to commemorate the kick-off of AAPIH month. Volunteers visited students at the Joint Base MDL after school youth group program May 10 to educate children on the importance of AAPIH through fun activities. The students in turn created posters of different Asian/Pacific Islander countries that were displayed during the AAPIH Celebration.

Volunteers wrapped lumpia at a food-prepping party May 17, to be served at the celebration’s  food tasting.  Lumpia is a spring roll made of vegetables and meat, usually dipped in a sweet chili sauce. It originated from China and is commonly found in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Through the efforts of the Committee members and volunteers, Joint Base MDL was able to gather together and honor the Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.

“Although it is only once a year,” said Pamplona, “We use this month to remember those who brought the rich diversity that creates this country we all call home for generations to come.”