The month of May highlights Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and its Special Observance committee is hosting a variety of events centered on teaching and retaining generational traditions and heritage.
Helping steer events while retaining traditions, Maj. Karlo Mariano, 88th Medical Group Physical Therapy Element leader, serves as the committee adviser for this year’s AAPI Heritage Month planning committee.
“Providing leadership and guidance in life and career to our military and civilian members while fostering community relationships at Wright-Patt and the surrounding areas is the mission of the Asian American Pacific Islander Association,” said Mariano. “Our organization’s main event is to support the events of the AAPI month which is `Unite Our mission by engaging each other.’”
Born in Mabalacat, Pampanga, Philippines, Mariano believes culture and customs are very important but sometimes tend to get lost with time.
“I think just as some of the customs and courtesies we have learned in the military have been forgotten, the younger generation might forget the beauty and tradition of our rich background,” said Mariano. “As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we need our voice to be heard collectively to inspire the younger Airmen and community members to educate the public on our culture and rich history, in order to maintain our traditions before they get lost.”
Growing up in nearby Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga, Philippines, Mariano developed a passion for the Air Force as he observed fighter planes training on a daily basis. Initially, he enlisted as a bioenvironmental engineering technician, found his passion and separated after 12 years to obtain a physical therapy degree. He then worked at various clinics, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Mariano later returned to the Air Force as a commissioned officer.
“I pursued my lifelong dream of coming back as an Air Force physical therapist to join the fight and essentially serve those who serve,” said Mariano. “I have been in the Air Force a total of 15 years now, and the diversity and inclusion that special observance months offer are important to Wright Patterson, as well as to the community at-large.”
Mariano sees his job as a part of what he loves to do and even more, understands how it ties into his culture’s traditions by way of purposeful movement and coordination.
“My job as a physical therapist is always tied to things we do in our military and civilian culture,” said Mariano. “For instance, if you attend this month’s luau celebration, functional mobility and coordination are big parts of what we do in the rehabilitation clinic. “Muscles have to fire, relax and coordinate in a certain sequence to create a single motion as in performing dance moves, like the Haka ritual dance.”
Inspired and excited by the younger generation helping to lead May’s events, Mariano wants to welcome all of team Wright Patt to take part in the festivities.
“I would like to underscore the meaning of diversity along with inclusion,” said Mariano. “The display of teamwork, diversity and unity in these projects is amazing. I have seen Airmen from all ranks taking pride in leading the various events this month.”
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is valued and cherished by Mariano because it is one of togetherness, traditions, inclusion, culture and education.
“We stand on the broad shoulders of our ancestors and the people who wore this uniform and served before us,” said Mariano. “It’s an honor for the younger generations of Airmen to perform these traditions and cook the foods their forefathers passed down through generations. We are a big part of winning the wars and making America the best country in the world.”
For more information on the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month scheduled events, contact Master Sgt. Eric Natalicio at firstname.lastname@example.org.