“I am the proud sister of a Korean-American helicopter instructor pilot for the United States Army. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up less than 2 percent of our service members. Like most immigrant families, our family embodied dual identities between our Korean heritage and our American nationality. When my brother enlisted, it felt like our dual identities conflicted with being a patriotic American military family, and I was hesitant to use this title to describe our family.
“My brother’s first deployment was to Iraq in 2008, and my parents coped the best way they knew how—by regularly sending him homemade Korean food. In the same year, Barack Obama was running for President. I was struck by the thoughtfulness and seriousness with which he spoke of the war, our veterans, and their families. He promised us that he would end the war in Iraq and refocus the war in Afghanistan. His candidacy symbolized a stark departure from where we were for the past eight years. I voted for him then with the hope and faith that change was coming.
“My brother’s second deployment was to Afghanistan, and our family had the chance to send him off. Whether we wanted to or not, we represented AAPI military families in that hangar where we said goodbye, and shared a common grief with the other families as we waved to our soldiers.
“I will never forget the Monday morning when we learned that my brother had been injured in combat. We received official updates from the Army, and his network of Army buddies worked quickly to find out what happened for us. He went into surgery in theatre and then was sent to Germany before coming back stateside. He was able to take convalescent leave so he could do his physical therapy at the VA hospital near our parents’ home.
“This experience made me realize we are and always have been an American military family—we are part of this country’s richly diverse military fabric. In one of our family’s darkest hours, regardless of our background, we were held up and comforted by our government and the military community.
“The President’s commitment to our veterans and military families is clear and strong, and his actions show that he understands the sacrifices our family and families like ours have made. He kept his promises from 2008: the Iraq war has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is front and center. Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s work on behalf of veterans provides us reassurance that my brother and our family are appreciated and will not be forgotten. This is why I will be voting for President Obama again this November. Our veterans and military families deserve it.”