OKINAWA, Japan --
U.S. Marines and Sailors come from many backgrounds and cultures within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. These service members bring a solid work ethic and sense of family to III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Several members of III MEF shared their experiences within the Marine Corps, including Staff Sgt. Ger Maginnis, the assistant supply chief with III MEF and a Hmong American Marine who elaborated on the importance of providing for family within her culture.
Maginnis’ parents hail from Laos and migrated to the U.S. as refugees during the Vietnam War. There, they built a new life for their family. Her father worked as a tailor, selling uniform clothing for schools and teaching people how to use sewing machines. Maginnis said, because of her father’s hard work, her family was considered leaders in their Hmong community.
“[My parents] taught me to look out for my peers and how to have the drive to work towards my next promotion,” said Maginnis.
“Hmong people are a tight-knit family and support each other financially, mentally and spiritually.”
Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in III MEF said family is an important aspect of their culture. Staff Sgt. Erika Balasabas, a counterintelligence specialist with III MEF, explained that the biggest thing she has taken from her Filipino culture is the family aspect, which she shares with her fellow Marines.
“Filipinos really do treat everyone like family,” said Balasabas. “That has helped me out here because I have created a family with other Marines in the barracks. We sometimes get mad at each other, and we have to call each other out, but we know at the end of the day we have each other’s backs.”
Along with treating Marines like family, Balasabas said she also shares her culture with her friends by cooking native Filipino food dishes with them on a regular basis.
“Understanding the food – why we eat it and how we eat – it connects you,” said Balasabas. “When I first got out here, I was looking for Filipino food places, and I got lumpia for [other Marines at the barracks], and we all enjoyed it and each other’s company. That is how you celebrate and appreciate a culture.”
Maginnis and Balasabas are just a few of the many Marines and Sailors within III MEF that are a part of the AAPI community. Because of their unique upbringing, they are able to enrich the comradery and culture variety of III MEF’s force.