May 7, 2013 > To my family and friends:
To my family and friends:
As I re-read my military email for the fourth time while sitting at my headquarters in Afghanistan this past August, I couldn't believe the words on the screen congratulating me on my selection for the rank of Brigadier General. It caught me completely by surprise because this is what happens to other people, not to me. The President of the United States had placed my name forward to the US Senate for confirmation on August 8, 2012 and on September 22, 2012, the Senate confirmed my appointment, all while I was still deployed.
I've heard it said that military service is an affair of the heart. I believe this to be true. My official military service started when I enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Santa Clara University where upon graduation in 1987, I received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army. Over the years, I have had some amazing experiences that have helped to shape me and become the person that I am today.
As a Soldier, I can think of nothing more meaningful than serving our Nation in the military during this time of war. At the same time, as a descendent of Chinese and Japanese parents, I find it inspiring to see how far we have come, especially given the challenges they lived through. As Japanese American migrant farm workers, my mother, Michiko Ino, and her family were ordered to an internment camp in Gila, Arizona during World War II. My father, Gilbert Yee, was told he couldn't become a school teacher because he was Chinese. Given what they had lived through, my parents would have never imagined their son reaching the rank of general. Yet, here I am today as a newly promoted Brigadier General.
Looking back, my family has always demonstrated patriotism and pride for our country. My father served in the Army during World War II, as did my Great Uncle Jimmie Ino, who left the internment camp to serve with the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The amazing thing about my Uncle Jimmie is that while he earned the Purple Heart fighting to liberate those in Europe, his own family was confined within a barbed wire compound back in the middle of the Arizona desert. My Uncle Jiro Ino served with the Army during the Korean War and my Great Aunt Sue Kumagai retired as a Colonel in the Army Nurse Corps earning the Bronze Star Medal for her service in Vietnam.
Several of my uncles also served in the military, to include my Uncles Richard Yee (Army), Shiro Ino (Marines), Saburo Ino (Army), Ichiro Ino (Army Air Corps, then Air Force) and Dick Wong (Navy). And now today, I have two nephews serving in the military-Diego Vera (Army), who I served with in Iraq, and Carlos Vera (Marines), who is currently stationed in Okinowa. Including my service in Iraq and Afghanistan, we now have family members that have served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War. It is now obvious that my inner drive and inspiration to serve in the military came from my family.
I recognize that any achievement is always underpinned by those we serve with and those that came before us. We don't get here on our own and there is really no such thing as a self-made individual-we always need some help. And so for all those that I have served with over the years and those that served before me, I am truly grateful. In addition to my parents, Gilbert and Michiko, I am thankful to have a great brother, Brendan, and sister, Grace Anne. Of course, a huge THANK YOU goes to Maria, my wife and partner of 27 years, and our three children, Gilbert, Michael, and Alissa. Any achievement great or small is meaningless unless you have someone to share it with. Our children don't get to choose their parents or get a vote in what their parents do, even if it takes them away from home and sends them half way around the world to a war zone. I am truly blessed.
Finally, on March 24, 2013, my promotion to Brigadier General became official and in a small private ceremony in the Pentagon, I raised my right hand and again swore my allegiance to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America. I've heard it said that military service is an affair of the heart. I believe this to be true.
BG Garrett Yee