We owe it not to our own heritage but to each other’s

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. George Nichols
  • 28th Mission Support Group
As many of us celebrated Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 8th and Mother’s Day this past weekend, I took a moment to also reflect on eclipsing 20 years since commissioning into the United States Air Force as a Civil Engineer.  What a blessed and phenomenal journey I’ve experienced. 

My mom Chin (she goes by Kim), who is from Taiwan, was at the forefront of my thoughts.  She left her country and married my pops, John, a Vietnam Veteran and retired Airmen after 40-plus years in the military and civil service, only to find herself in a life of service as a military spouse raising my older brother and I.  She taught us kids so much that has significantly influenced my own life dedicated to serving our country and others.  She taught us work ethic and the path to success was by taking action when no one would and hard work.  She taught us loyalty and that your word is your bond.  When you say you are going to do something, you do it unselfishly and because it’s simply the right thing to do.  She taught us that life won’t always be easy and that you should never settle, instead demand perfection of yourself and others and never quit.  She taught us to love and that it takes sacrifice, especially if it means that much to you.  She taught us that you can do anything in this world if you are motivated enough and believe in yourself that you will achieve it. 

There’s no list we went over routinely, nor is what has been mentioned all inclusive.  There’s literally too many life lessons gleaned from such a remarkable woman.  The most recent being perseverance and grit.  She has succumbed to Parkinson’s for almost my entire career.  This debilitating disease has proven itself the toughest thing I’ve ever witnessed slowly take away one’s fighting spirit.  But her resolve in the face of adversity has inspired me that on my worst days, the fight is still on!  To never give up, give in or give out! 

So during the month of May we recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage and the 2020 Federal Asian Pacific American Council’s theme of “Unite Our Nation by Empowering Equality”.  Dignity and respect underpin our Air Force Core Values and at its heart is the notion that in order to accomplish our mission to “Fly, Fight, and Win” we all must dedicate ourselves through persistent servant leadership, to embrace diversity and inclusion, to cultivate relationships with one another by understanding each other’s heritage and upbringing, and to ensure equality is based on actions and performance not demographics.  

President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Americanism is not and has never been a matter of race or color.  Americanism is a matter of mind and heart.”  It takes the acknowledgement that today our Nation’s success as it has for many years is illustrated by a direct connection of equality and service.  That in order to remain the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” we must accept and embody the principles that war doesn’t differentiate by demographics, that every life truly matters, and that our tenacious excellence is uniquely based on the summation of everyone’s actions and sacrifice toward the greater good of humanity.  We owe it not to our own heritage but to each other’s.

There are over 115,000 Asian Pacific Americans serving in the Department of Defense, and I am proud to be considered among them.  In my heart like many of us that have served or are serving today, we hold tight to the belief, “Whatever you do, do not dishonor your country.  Remember – never dishonor your family.  And if you must give your life, do so with honor.”  Having honor doesn’t require a uniform, but wearing a uniform does require having honor.  Serving our Great Nation demands we honor those that have served before us.  For it is in the famous words of Booker T. Washington,  “Character, not circumstances” that define you.