Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

A graphic illustration

The observance recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander Month runs through the month of May and celebrates the service and sacrifices of Asian/Pacific Islanders throughout the United States. (Graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)


The first Asian American and Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor, Pvt. Jose B. Nisperos of the San Fernandos Union, Philippine Islands, was born on Dec. 30, 1887.

In 1907, Nisperos enlisted in the U. S. Army. He served in the 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts and took part in the Moro Rebellion. Moro is another term for Muslim.

Nisperos served at the Lapurap, Basilan Island, and fought against the Moro people, of the southern provinces of the Philippines during the Philippine-American War.

In response to the collapse of the First Philippine Republic, the Philippine-American War and the Moro Rebellion was established to help the U.S. against the insurgent forces.

The Moro Rebellion began in 1899 and lasted through 1913.

The southern provinces included Mindanao, Jolo and the Sulu Archipelago. These areas housed a small Muslim population, who did not want Americans around.

While on a protective detail, Nisperos and his party were attacked. He successfully fended off the Moro attackers and shielded his party from injury and further mutilation.

As a result, Nisperos suffered a broken arm and lacerations-to include several spear wounds that left him unable to stand.

Nisperos was later discharged for disability in June 1912. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1912, presented by Brig. Gen. James Bell in February 1913.

Results of Nisperos's actions to this day
There are many positive outcomes that stemmed from his actions. Since then, there has been an influx of service members that come from many ethnic backgrounds.

During the opening stages of the Philippine-American War, President William McKinley signed an executive order to allow 500 Filipinos to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

Following the Philippine-American War and the Moro Rebellion, President William Howard Taft allowed Filipino stewards to serve in the White House, a practice that would continue to this day.

Today, anyone of any ethnicity shares the same rights. Each individual can carve their own path in anything they do, especially in the armed services.

Pvt. Jose B. Nisperos served and became known for his ferocity when fending off the enemy and never giving up. That way of life has been engraved into all Asian American Pacific Islanders and it lives on until this day.

The sacrifices and services of our forefathers have paved the way for future leaders to have opportunities for all Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

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