The United States has recognized the month of May as a time to acknowledge the achievements and contributions to the American story by Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians (AAPIs).
We celebrate the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, and unique experiences represented among more than 56 ethnic groups (speaking over 100 languages) from Asia and the Pacific Islands who live in the United States.
In this example, we pay tribute to Florence Smith Finch, the daughter of an American soldier and a Filipino mother, who was working for the U.S. Army during World War II when the Japanese occupied the Philippines.
Claiming Filipino citizenship, she avoided being imprisoned with other enemy nationals at Santo Tomas Internment.
She joined the underground resistance movement and smuggled food, medicine, and supplies to American captives. Eventually, she was arrested by the Japanese, tortured, and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
After serving five months of her sentence, Finch was liberated by American forces. Returning to the United States aboard a Coast Guard transport, she headed for Buffalo, New York, her father's hometown.
She then enlisted in the Coast Guard to “avenge the death of her late husband,” a Navy PT boat crewman killed at Corregidor.
Seaman First Class Finch was the first U.S Coast Guard Women's Reserve member to receive the Asian-Pacific Campaign ribbon in recognition of her service in the Philippines.
At the end of the war, she was awarded the civilian U.S. Medal of Freedom.
Of her wartime activities she said: “I feel very humble because my activities in the war effort were trivial compared with those of people who gave their lives for their country.”
In 1995, the Coast Guard honored her service when it named a building on Sand Island, Hawaii, after her.
Equity, dignity, respect, and cooperation among all individuals are essential values in the DoD work environment, to learn about the Defense Department Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, go to http://diversity.defense.gov/.
Excerpt from the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Defense Department presentation prepared by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, May 2015 Dawn W. Smith.