By Katlin Esguerra, FINDInk Contributor
I was given the chance to speak to a few military friends who are currently living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a coastal city located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, where it’s heavily-influenced by a military presence. When first arriving in the area, I’ve come to realize the abundance of Filipinos who are residents here, and how a generous amount of Filipinos in the area are connected to the military. From prior knowledge received by relatives and other fellow Filipinos, many people from the Philippines joined the U.S. military, such as the U.S. Navy, for example, served in order to gain citizenship and better life opportunities in the United States. To recollect from memory, many family friends and relatives of mine did serve in the Navy, as well as other branches, and many young Filipino-American friends today serve today from being influenced by older generations. In this piece, brief biographies are given on the lives of four young adults who connect their Filipino culture to their military affiliations in different ways, which has been accomplished by connecting with them face-to-face to learn more about their experiences.
Allan, United States Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR)
Allan decided to join the USMCR in order to push himself, gain different perspectives, and present his being in the military as a challenge. He’s lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia throughout his entire life, where the military influence is dispersed throughout the entire city. Growing up in Virginia Beach was somewhat of a factor that led him to join the military, but it was also the people around him - friends, family, and even neighbors, that gave him advice and connections to join.
As a Filipino-American, Allan grew up in a diverse neighborhood, and associated with many people within the Filipino-American community of Virginia Beach. From high school to college, he gained more exposure to Asian culture through various events and student-led organizations. Allan gained leadership experience by obtaining officer positions through FIND, Inc., specifically within District VII as Historian, Public Relations Officer, and District Chairperson. Not only was he able to connect with his cultural roots, but he gave himself a chance to network with other young Filipino-Americans, as well as becoming a more outspoken person.
His involvement with the young Filipino-American community, as well as his being a Virginia Beach native, serve as reflections from his military experiences. Joining the USMCR presented positive changes in Allan’s life, both professionally and personally. While being one of the few Asian-Americans in his section, Allan stumbled upon the realization that the color of one’s skin didn’t matter when being a marine, and that he felt as an equal where he was standing. He compares being Filipino with being in the military, in which he states that, “there’s pride in serving, and there’s pride in your roots.”
Lew Jeane, United States Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR)
“Growing up, I was always seeing guys in uniform, and it made me wanna join.” Throughout his entire life, the military influence had immensely surrounded Lew Jeane wherever he has lived, thus leading to a spark in a genuine interest in becoming a part of the military. Not only did he possess a genuine interest in joining, but he became influenced by family members who were already a part of the U.S. Army and Navy, allowing him to follow a path outside of his comfort zone. For two years, Lew Jeane had gained an eye-opening experience of becoming an integral part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
He’s lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for about eighteen years, after being raised in Guam and in the Philippines as a child. He describes living in Virginia Beach as being about making a living from what you’ve got out of your surroundings. The same can be said about his joining the Marines - it’s what you make out of your experience, and it has to be something you really want to do.
Growing up in Filipino household, according to Lew Jeane, meant that parents will always take care of you no matter what - Filipino parents, at any extent, are very caring and supportive of their children’s endeavours. While already having family members in the military, his family had already supported his decisions in joining the Marines. Lew Jeane’s perspectives on Filipinos joining the military include the assurance of obtaining a secure future while owing a service to the nation.
Joining the military has given him the chance to embrace many challenges and expose himself to different types of people within the Marines, who each have distinct, yet respected, viewpoints on specific issues. Being a part of the Marines meant overseeing differences, serving for a larger purpose, and serving to better one’s self. After enduring physical challenges and aiming for personal pursuits, he sees the possibilities of going on active duty someday. He has felt, “to finally be a part of something much bigger than yourself,” and has overall, felt a special connection to the military as a Filipino-American.
Avery, U.S. Army
Avery has served in the Army for almost six years, and first joined with a group of friends from high school. He’s fairly familiar with the military presence in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, which was one factor that influenced him to join, along with the fact that his entire family is a part of the military, as well. Avery describes Virginia Beach, and the Hampton Roads area in general as, “pretty much thriving on the military, and the cities wouldn’t have progressed as much without it.”
As a child of a Caucasian father and Filipina mother, he was able to experience the best of both worlds - he’s been exposed to two different cultural backgrounds from both parents. Along with immersing himself in his family’s cultures, both sides of his family had a history of serving in the military, as well. Living in Virginia Beach, he states that he, “never felt like a minority,” in which he’s encountered people of the same background as him, in terms of military status, as well as cultural background. To Avery, Virginia Beach is a small, simple city composed of diversity amongst its residents. It’s a place where it’s been easy for Avery to find friends with the same similarities as him.
Luckily for Avery, the Army has felt like a second family, and it has been a coming-of-age experience that has helped him grow as a person. By being a person of Filipino descent in the U.S. Army, he’s had an experience of being treated equally, despite any differences that others in the Army may possess. “There are lots of equal opportunity policies, and huge repercussions for discriminatory acts,” Avery states. Not only does he see the Army as an opportunity to serve the country and to help him progress personally, but it’s also perceived to help form connections with people who have distinct backgrounds or backstories.
Avery also mentioned how his grandfather from the Philippines joined the U.S. Navy to migrate to the United States, and how joining the Navy gave his family many opportunities to make a living in a new country. This serves as an indication that his Filipino roots share a connection with the U.S. military, and how it serves as a reflection of his involvement in it today. As an integral counterpart of the U.S. Army, Avery views the countless possibilities ahead of him in terms of opportunities, which helps him create his own personal “history” as a person involved in the Filipino-American community.
Lou, U.S. Navy child
Throughout her entire life, Lou lived where the Navy lived – bases in Japan, Philippines, Guam, and finally in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her father was a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Navy, which helped shape the life of Lou and her family that was much different than those of regular civilians.
For Lou, having a parent in the U.S. Navy meant shifting from one home to another, which also meant that living in different areas each led to different experiences. She spent most of her time living on Navy bases in Guam, a home in which her heart belongs to. It was until her senior year of high school that she moved to the mainland part of the U.S. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a place in which the military influence is clearly present, but, as she claims it to be, smaller compared to Guam. As Lou mentions that she’s lived in Virginia for almost five to six years, she also reveals that, “Adjusting to Virginia was difficult since I’ve gotten attached to Guam, but I’ve recently just started getting used to this state.”
Since she lived in areas that were exclusive to military families, Lou was able to grow up with other people that shared similarities as her. Living in Guam, Lou felt an abundance of diversity, and people were open to getting to know one another with hardly any trouble. “Going to school on a military base meant hardly any discrimination, bullying, or cliques, and everyone felt connected with one another,” Lou speaks as she recalls from her experiences. When living in the mainland U.S., particularly in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she claims that there’s, “no normal” when it comes to diversity, since the nation is comprised of diverse cultures, but lacking in connection from person to person. Luckily for Lou, she was able to embrace her being Filipina-American without coming in contact with serious threats to her cultural background. Learning from her experience, she’s been able to connect with other Filipinos like herself, as well as people of multiple backgrounds, as well.
Lou feels a strong connection between being a part of the U.S. Navy and being Filipino-American. She mentions the abundance of Filipinos in the military, especially in the Navy, and how it isn’t difficult to connect with other Filipinos in the military wherever you live. When speaking of her father, the Navy helped give him and his family opportunities living in the U.S. and abroad while still being connected to the Filipino culture. Lou mentions how the military takes care of their people as best as possible, and how military families receive plenty of long-term benefits to take care of themselves. “Being a military child, I’ve become more grateful, and my family was given so much without even realizing it,” Lou states. As someone whose family member had served in the military, she would say that she had a good upbringing, and was given great opportunities living on base. Growing up in the military, she was also given the opportunities to stay grounded in her culture and speak her family’s native language. Lou was able to understand her people’s struggles, and her background made her want to succeed in what she pursues in life.
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.