The time has come for me to bid farewell to the Pentagon and move on to my next assignment. Given how much I have learned and grown these past four years, I wanted to take a minute and give you all a few of my thoughts as I depart. Safety Brief: This is a long note so don't feel obligated to read any further.
In June 2015, instead of heading home to California after a year-long deployment in the Middle East, I was re-directed to the Pentagon to work for the Army's Chief Information Officer. It was originally planned for a year, but then I was advised that it was for two. Due to a transition with the CIO during my second year, I was kept on for a third year to provide continuity. Then during my third year, we found ourselves with a shortage of senior leaders, and so I was kept on for a fourth.
My time at the Pentagon has passed incredibly fast. I've often heard the saying about long days and short weeks. This is true here at the Pentagon. While the work at times can be very interesting, I'll say the best part of this assignment has been the opportunity to meet and work with so many dedicated professionals. Whether military, civilian, or contractor, we have an amazing workforce that day-after-day gets after our Nation's hardest problems.
Now that I'm leaving, I'd like to share with you a little about my family and why I serve. Some of you may have hear this story before. Like many of you, I grew up with great role models at home. I consider my parents (Gilbert and Michiko Yee), my grandparents, and members of my extended family excellent examples. My father, like many of his generation, had served in the U.S. Army during WWII, but my story really starts many years before.
We often hear about "The good old days" as if life was better back then. When I look at my parents' black and white photos, life did seem much simpler, at least less complicated. However, the reality for most folks back then is that life was not always that good.
As we know, it wasn't that long ago that Asians in America faced their own unique challenges - my family was no exception. When Daisy, my U.S.-born grandmother on my father's side, married my grandfather, Sam Yee, who was born in my China, Daisy lost her U.S. citizenship due to the Chinese Exclusion Acts. That was 1924. Daisy, who only completed the fifth grade, placed a high value on her U.S. citizenship status, so later in life after the Exclusion Acts had been repealed in 1943, Daisy studied for and passed the citizenship test to become a U.S. citizen again.
When Kiyo, my U.S.-born grandmother on my mother's side, married my grandfather, Harry Ino, who was born in Japan, Kiyo also lost her U.S. citizenship due to the expanding Asian exclusion laws.
At least for my grandparents, these were not the good old days and unfortunately, my family's story is not unique.
As Japanese American farm workers during World War II, my mother and her family were ordered into an internment camp in the middle of the Arizona desert. Although born in America, the United States government considered my mother and her siblings a threat to our Nation. The Ino family had to reduce their entire life's belongings down to just a few boxes. Prior to being shipped off to an internment camp in Arizona, the government housed my mother's family and many others in the horse stables of the Santa Anita race track in Southern California.
The United States government said they placed the 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps for their own protection. Of course, my mom to this day questions that, especially given the guns from the towers pointed into the camp, not away. When something as traumatic as this happens to someone, we know it can have a profound negative impact not only on that individual, but it can carry through to their children, grandchildren, and so on. No doubt, the decision to place Japanese Americans in internment camps permanently changed the trajectory of their lives and the future lives of their children.
At the same time that Japanese Americans were held in camps across the western states, we also had many Japanese Americans serving in the United States military, either as part of the famed 442nd "Go for Broke" Regimental Combat Team or the Military Intelligence Service.
My Great Uncle Jimmie Ino served with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, earning the Purple Heart while fighting to liberate those in Europe; at the same time members of his family remained behind barbed wire in the Arizona desert and other internment camps across the western states. Those that served in the 442nd had something to prove - that they were just as patriotic as the rest of America.
Just as negative experiences can impact future generations, so can positive experiences, such as military service. I believe that because my great uncle served in the military, that my mother's four brothers decided to serve in the military as well. Three of her brothers (Ichiro, Jiro, and Saburo) served in the Army and one brother (Shiro) served in the Marines. Interestingly, all four brothers spent World War II in an internment camp. They all looked back fondly on their military service. And so did my Uncle Dick who married my mom's sister Yuriko. Uncle Dick served in the Navy. That's five uncles on my mom's side who served.
My Great Aunt Sue Kumagai also served in the Army Nurse Corps, making it to the rank of Colonel and earning the Bronze Star for her service in Vietnam. My two uncles on my father's side (Frank and Richard) also served in the Army. All looked back fondly on their military service.
Including my service in Iraq and Afghanistan, our family has served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It turns out that I come from a family fairly rich in military service. And if not for those that came before, starting with my uncle in the 442nd, I would not be serving in the military today.
And so today I serve not only to honor those that came before, but because like many, it is a calling to be a member of the profession of arms where we get to do something greater than ourselves. We do have so much to be thankful for in America and military service is a way to give back and pay it forward. It shows just how far our country has come that during my mother's lifetime, the same United States Government that placed her and her family into an internment camp during WWII also promoted her son to the rank of Major General.
As I depart the Pentagon and move on to the Defense Information Service Agency at Ft Meade, MD, I want to thank everyone for their continued support. Maria and I have truly enjoyed our time here getting to know all of the Soldiers, civilians, contractors, and families over the past four years. No doubt, I will remember my time at the Pentagon very fondly.