'Steel Spike' Soldiers spotlight Asian-Pacific Heritage
April 24, 2009
BAGHDAD - April is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month and 2009 is the Army's "Year of the NCO." To celebrate both, Company A, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 225th Engineer Brigade, highlightede the outstanding work of two noncommissioned officer's of Asian descent.
"Recognizing Asian-Pacific heritage is important because the Army draws its strength through diversity," said Capt. Lisa Landreth, commander, Company A. "By dedicating months to specific cultures, we not only honor the contributions that each particular group has made, but we educate the ranks on the things that make each unique and special."
Sgt. Jinjian Tan, originally from Canton, China, currently supervises construction at Forward Operating Base Loyalty. He and his team of engineers continue to make drastic upgrades to the living conditions for fellow Soldiers and civilians on the base. Tan's team most recently remodeled a high-rise building for Soldier housing.
Growing up with a Christian background, Tan said he and his family moved to the U.S. when he was 12 years-old, arriving on a very special night - Christmas Eve 1998.
"I experienced culture shock when I moved to the United States, but I have grown to love it," declared Tan. "I learned the English alphabet and some basics before I got here, but I had to learn pretty much everything here."
Like many other Soldiers, Tan joined the military for the exceptional higher education benefits.
"I joined the Army to get college money and I would like to complete a degree in civil engineering," he said. "I have a better idea of how structures come together in the real world and have gained a firmer grasp of construction principles in general."
Though financial assistance with his education was a motivating factor, Tan said he enjoys serving in the Army. He has had a successful Army career, moving up through the enlisted ranks and is very dedicated to his Soldiers and the mission.
"Sgt. Tan is a hands-on team leader. He works hard and likes to dig into the mission," said 2nd Lt. Brent Vance, Tan's platoon leader. "He is willing to get his hands dirty with his Soldiers to show them how to get the job done right."
Future plans for Sgt. Tan include becoming a contractor in the civilian sector and completing building projects.
Another strong NCO of Asian-Pacific heritage is Vientiane, Laos native Sgt. Thavone Nakhonexay, construction team leader, 46th ECB (H).
Nakhonexay spent his early childhood close to Thailand and Vietnam and moved to the United States with his family in 1980. Though Nakhonexay experienced two cultures growing up, it was not enough, he wanted to see more.
"I joined the Army to see the world. I like to experience new cultures," stated Nakhonexay or 'Sgt. Tha' (pronounced 'Thai'), as his Soldiers call him.
While deployed to Iraq he has gained a new perspective on different cultures, and gained an appreciation for what he has back in the states.
"I've realized that we take a lot for granted [back home]," he said. "Even having a place to sleep isn't something that everyone has."
With every decision he makes, Nakhonexay considers his family in making life plans. He views his family as his greatest achievement and getting married just over a year ago, tops his list of the best thing to happen to him.
Nakhonexay is majoring in architectural engineering and hopes to one day open a restaurant and pool hall with his sister back in the United States.
The Asian New Year is a special time for both Tan and Nakhonexay; each Soldier takes the opportunity to celebrate their culture's New Year and look forward to the year ahead.
"Instead of concentrating on resolutions for the New Year, I think of it more as a time to celebrate the year that is past and rejoice in the new beginnings to come," said Tan. "I like to just enjoy it. I'm always glad that I made it through the last year and hope that the next year is better."