Overcoming obstacles part of Asian/Pacific Islander American heritage

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Fred Reyes
  • 419th Fighter Wing, Equal Opportunity Counsler
Recently, I had an opportunity to meet David Yei, who works in the 419th Fighter Wing. Yei is a technical sergeant in the Civil Engineering Squadron and has worked as a firefighter for about three years.

He was born at the Dugway Proving Grounds and grew up in Tooele. It was in grade school when he first felt and became aware that his physical appearance led to a difference in how he was treated by others. He quickly learned some people had biases and prejudices. He heard words that Air Force professionalism frowns upon.

In junior high school he was exposed to various attitudes regarding his heritage. Some were very positive and others that were somewhat negative. Yei attributed the positive feedback to the diverse high school he attended.

Yei commented that "in high school it was a completely different world." He said life at Tooele High was more diverse with obvious pockets of cliques -- groups of people with both similar interests and mindsets. After graduation Yei decided to work for a grocery store for about a year. He then decided to join the Army Reserves to "Be All You Can Be!" After completing eight years as an aero-medical technician, he went back to the civilian side of the house. Missing the strong bond of camaraderie, he decided to tackle another challenge. He joined the Air Force Reserve.

Yei joined the 466th CLSS as an energized E-5 and ready to tackle anything, even the haunting "Course 6" (as it was called) -- the prerequisite for becoming a reserve technical cergeant. Yei's first annual tour was home station to attend ABDR School. ABDR stands for Aircraft Battle Damage Repair. He got orders to Germany (Spandahlem) a year later. Yei's next assignment was to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Yei always strived to serve as a model Airman. He was driven to become a viable asset to his unit, community and the United States Air Force Reserve.

In looking at some of Yei's family history, this is considered a significant change from what his uncles went through as they grew up in Topaz, a city in Southern Utah. From approximately 1942ââ-ââ1945, Topaz was the site of a an internment camp. It was like a concentration camp in that it housed Japanese-American citizens -- 8,000 American-Japanese members were kept under watchful eyes at Topaz. Yei had an uncle who was placed at Topaz, who still to date does not desire to reminisce that part of his history as well as our past. In addition, he has another uncle who joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was able to leave that same camp. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed solely of American-Japanese citizens and became the U.S. Army's most decorated combat group of WWII.

I encourage everyone to celebrate Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month (May 1-31) .