MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders dominate the demographics of Hawaii. Their rich, cultural heritage is found not only in Hawaii, but all over the world. Like most commemorative months, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month began as a congressional bill. It was signed in June of 1977, and the first 10 days in May were designated as Asian Pacific Heritage Week. It wasn't until President George H.W. Bush's term that the commemorative week was extended to its current place on the calendar.
Among the Pacific Islanders on Oahu wearing the Marine Corps uniform is Sgt. Aysia Acfalle, an administrative chief with the Base Inspector's Office aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii. She was born at Naval Medical Center San Diego, and comes from a family with a military background and strong Guamanian roots. She found herself following in her father's footsteps by balancing the Marine Corps traditions and ethos with her native culture.
“A lot of my family members were Marines,” Acfalle said. “My dad is a former Marine, who served in Operation Desert Storm, and my brother is a Marine.”
Acfalle moved to Guam as a child, and after spending a considerable amount of time there, adopted many of the common traditions and courtesies indigenous to the Pacific Islands before returning to the U.S.
“There are a lot of (customs) in Guam that I didn't really see in the U.S,” Acfalle said. “(I saw more) holding the door open for people, giving the proper greeting, and saying hello (to somebody) you don't know.”
Fortunately for Acfalle, the Marine Corps' chivalry instilled within Marines meshes with some of her heritage's. However, some do not, and she must find ways to marry institutional expectations with personal ideals.
“I find myself struggling with the age (barrier),” Acfalle said. “In my culture, anything an adult or elder says- goes. You don't argue with it, that's just how it is. In our culture, age is the rank structure.”
It is not uncommon for a service member within any branch of service to rank higher than somebody older and at times, the age gap can be considerable.
“When I joined the Marine Corps, my first challenge as a young corporal was when I had a 35-year-old lance corporal under my charge,” Acfalle said. “I found it difficult telling somebody who is older than me what to do.”
Through her own experiences, Acfalle remedies this internal conflict by being open-minded and unassuming of Marines. Young or old, she realizes that everybody has their own experiences.
“(I) have to be respectful of those older than me, because although they're a (lower) rank than me, they have experienced more in life than I, and I use that as a tool,” she said. “Although the Marine Corps is a (nonstop) commitment, there are a lot of things in life that you can implement into your Marine Corps life. Whatever (my elders) have learned through their life, that I wasn't even alive for, they can share that with me and allow me to be a better Marine.”
Marines from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds and cultures tie the Marine Corps together, forming a homogenous fighting force. The Marine Corps prides itself on its obedience to orders and its traditional background, however that does not mean Marines have to sacrifice their heritage. Rather, they must find a balance.
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Korolev
Provided through DVIDS
The U.S. Marines | Comment on this article