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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates family and success

  • Published
  • By Dianne Moffett
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration in honor of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States. It commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. in 1843 and marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, made possible by many Chinese laborers, May 10, 1869.

Many Asian-Pacific Americans have helped build, defend and shape our nation and made great progress in areas of medicine, science, art, business, academia, military and government.

Airman 1st Class Gabriel Svetcos, 502nd Contracting Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, said this month honors the culture and traditions that have been passed down through many generations of Asian American and Pacific Islander families. He celebrates because it's a way to recognize the hard work and effort of those who came before him who created the pathway to achieve success.

"Heritage also plays and important role in that it educates many on the contributions and achievements of the many cultures in American's history," he said. He remembers stories from his grandmother, or Lola, which means grandmother in Tagalog (Filipino), of living in the Philippines. "She held on to many traditions of the Philippine culture, which she passed down through family generations and always worked diligently to provide well for her family," he said.

Svetcos grandmother operated the switch boards at Clark Air Force Base, Luzon Island, Philippines, in what was their communications squadron. Her connection to the U.S. government eventually allowed her to work her way into other government positions that ultimately gave her the opportunity to move her family to the U.S.
"It was an extreme transition for her and her family," Svetcos said, "Especially plunging into a new and foreign culture that caused them to step outside of their comfort zone, but they persevered and adapted in order to succeed. Without her, I definitely would not be where I am today."

In President Barack Obama's 2014 Proclamation of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, he states "As we recall our hard-fought progress, let us resolve to continue moving forward. Together, let us ensure the laws respect everyone, civil rights apply to everyone, and everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a chance to get ahead."