LATHAM, N.Y. – New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major Arnold Reyes was 4 years old when his parents moved him from the Philippines to New York to build a better life for himself and his two brothers.“They moved here with literally a suitcase in a new country, to provide a better life for the family,” Reyes said.But Reyes, the top noncommissioned officer in the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, said he’s still proud of his Filipino heritage and he appreciates the military recognizing that heritage during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.During the month, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are recognized for their contributions to the United States.Since his arrival in the United States, Reyes has served 37 years in the military and 20 years as a Suffolk County police officer, all while finding time to volunteer as a firefighter.While attending high school, Reyes enlisted in the Army Reserves at the age of 16 with parental consent. At 17, he attended basic training the summer before his senior year of high school.Reyes has served as a medic, infantryman, dragon gunner, recon scout, infantry instructor, Officer Candidate School instructor, combat arms branch chief for a regional training battalion, platoon sergeant, company first sergeant, and battalion command sergeant major.“I’ve been lucky and consider myself to be very well rounded when it comes to my assignments in the military,” Reyes said.He is on his third major New York State domestic response mission, having served following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.Now he is on duty as the dual-status command sergeant major, acting as the senior enlisted adviser to New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michel Natali.The dual-status command is a joint National Guard, active-duty headquarters responsible for integrating National Guard and active military response to domestic operations.Natali is responsible for the New York National Guard element and active-duty service members working in New York City.In addition to his state activations, Reyes has also deployed to Iraq as an infantryman and again as an infantry platoon sergeant.As the only Filipino family in an American suburban neighborhood, Reyes said his link to his culture was the food his mother cooked at family gatherings. The food his family serves today is a way to remember that heritage and his childhood, Reyes said.While he was usually the only Filipino or Asian American kid in his class, he had the chance to meet more people with his background when he joined the Army.His immigrant background has made it easier to understand and sympathize with people from different cultures and accept their beliefs and differences, Reyes said.For example, one of his biggest struggles growing up in the United States was not knowing English at first, he explained. That challenge helps him understand other people who still face it.“I’m more compassionate to the civilians as a police officer when they struggle to communicate,” Reyes said, “and to be able to accept the differences in culture, so much more readily, during my overseas deployments.”As a command sergeant major, he’s also been able to use his experience to give good advice to the leaders he works for and the Soldiers he works with, Reyes said.“It’s being able to take care, teach, mentor younger Soldiers and to help set up the next generation of future leaders,” Reyes said. “I’m a firm believer that great leaders don’t add, they multiply.”Reyes said he likes his job so much, he re-enlisted last month for six more years.“As long as I wear this uniform, we cannot fail these service members and we cannot fail the nation if we are called upon,” Reyes said.Related linksArmy.mil: Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. ArmySTAND TO!: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage MonthArmy.mil: Worldwide NewsArmy.mil: Soldier FeaturesNational Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard Twitter