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Being a Filipino American in today’s Air Force

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- My family immigrated to America when I was 3 years old. My dad was talked into it by his older brother who was already living in California during the ‘70s. My dad was sold when my uncle told him about all the opportunities America had versus the Philippines. Immigrating to a new country with no money was rough to say the least. With the help of relatives and the hard work of my parents, our family was finally able to stand on our own feet and eventually buy our first house, an American dream in itself.

The first time I saw someone in a military uniform I was 8 years old, when my aunt introduced us to her American husband, Uncle Joe. The first time I saw Uncle Joe, he was looking sharp in his Air Force blues and flight cap. In my young mind he looked like a super hero. I knew there was something different about him other than the way he looked because he was also friendly and disciplined at the same time. Meeting my Uncle Joe was when I first realized I wanted to wear the same uniform someday.

Growing up as a first generation Filipino American, my family was not fond of me joining the military. My mother was completely against it, since she’s seen what the horrors of war could do to a person. My grandfather was a WWII veteran who survived the Bataan Death March when he was just 20 years old. My mother told us of the extreme hardships my grandfather endured as Philippine soldier during WWII and demanded I respect my grandfather at all times. She always told me that I would’ve never been born if my grandfather didn’t survive the war. When I became a teenager and my grandfather passed away, I realized I never saw him smile or laugh. He was probably still haunted by the horrors of war all the way until his death.

Knowing that my family was against me joining the military, I didn’t join right out of high school. I tried college and the civilian life first and grew bored of it. I wanted to see more than just the same places I grew up in, so I enlisted in the Air Force without telling my parents. I did tell them afterwards and they were not pleased, to say the least. They did come around a couple years later when they saw firsthand the Air Force was a positive place for me and was making me a better person.

Being in the Air Force has taught me what it is to be American. Growing up as a Filipino living in America I was a little confused if I was Filipino or American, but after being in the Air Force over the past decade it’s finally made me realize I’m both. Being a Filipino American in the U.S. Air Force has been such a great experience. It’s something I would’ve never experienced if I remained a civilian in California. I’ve been to so many different places and met so many different types of people in the Air Force. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the deserts of Africa and friends from Alabama all the way to Washington. The Air Force has been a pretty cool place to be, don’t you think?