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    Second generation Asian American reflects on culture and service



    Story by Cpl. Isaac Copeland 

    220th Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- May is Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a national observance that honors the perseverance and legacy of those cultures and celebrates their contributions to the nation.

    For Maj. Jeku Arce, a first generation Asian American with Filipino heritage, his U.S. Army Reserve service has brought him closer to his culture and a sense of community.

    Having been born in Kuwait, Arce grew up with three different languages in the home: Arabic, Filipino and English. As a young boy, going to school meant seeing and experiencing a melting pot of cultures.

    “The part where I always had an issue with was where do I belong?” said Arce. “I felt that I didn’t know where my roots were so, I was always confused.”

    As a teenager, Arce accepted an Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps Nursing scholarship at California State University Fresno and graduated after just four years, where the average nursing student takes five years. Shortly afterward, Arce was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps and passed his National Council Licensure Examination, the nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses.

    “Being an Army Nurse Corps officer, I fulfilled the dreams of both my parents,” he said. “My mother wanted me to be a nurse to continue the family tradition and my father wanted me to join the military, something he couldn’t do in his career.”

    The Army allowed Arce to travel around the world and observe various traditions and ways of life.

    “Those opportunities gave me a chance to connect with Filipino officers and enlisted service members around the world and gain a better understanding of how our culture fit into American military culture,” Arce explained of his early years in the Army. “The biggest thing is finding those cultural reference connections within military service.”

    In Filipino culture, as well as many Asian American cultures, family and community is a high priority and being around people who share similar cultural backgrounds and experiences makes it easy to feel at home.

    “The place that I felt the most culturally disconnected was when I was stationed in Germany,” he said. “I was stationed in Germany on active-duty, 2014 to 2016. It was so different from any other place I’ve lived before. To better connect with the German culture, I took a German language class, visited historical landmarks and spoke with locals to learn their perspective on their values and beliefs. Through these efforts, I was able to gain better cultural self-awareness.”

    Looking for a change to align with his growing personal photography business, Arce applied and was accepted for a new position in the Army Reserve as a public affairs officer in 2016 with the 7th Mission Support Command in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He currently works as the Army Reserve Ambassador Program Manager for the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve. In that position, Arce works to promote the Army Reserve by managing ambassadors as a gateway between the Army Reserve and the local community.

    For this year’s observance, Arce was invited to attend the White House Celebration of Asian Americans Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. This historic community-wide celebration commemorated 25 years since the creation of the White House Initiative and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. This event recognized the successes and historic milestones made by the community since the initiative was first established.

    “That event made me feel validated about who I was trying to be as an Asian American because I was able to connect with those who had similar experiences as me,” Arce said. “I am not alone; I have a whole community to support me.”

    To learn more about Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, visit .


    Date Taken: 05.31.2024
    Date Posted: 05.31.2024 11:30
    Story ID: 472701

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