AAPI Month: SSgt Celis shares Saipanese heritage, culture

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kayla Christenson
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Saipan, an island in the chain of the Northern Mariana Islands, spans 12 miles long and 5.6 miles wide. It consists of more than 45,000 people, the majority of which are Asian and Pacific Islanders. Before coming to the ‘Mighty 97th’ Staff Sgt. Margaret Celis was one of them.

Celis, a 97th Medical Group pharmacy technician, was born in Saipan as a member of the indigenous Chamorro people and resided on the island for a total of 12 years.

“My dad was in the Army and we traveled a bit all over after I turned nine and then came back to Saipan where I graduated high school, ” said Celis. “I still have family that lives there but a lot of them have moved due to limited opportunities on the island.”

Celis has been in the Air Force for more than four years and plans on serving until retirement, possibly as an officer.

“Seeing my dad wear the uniform, living that lifestyle of moving a lot and being around service members, made the transition a lot easier,” she said. “I also knew that joining before I started a family would better the timing of it all so I wouldn’t be separated from them as long as my dad was.”

Celis loves to cook and, even though she has moved away from Saipan, she carries on the tradition of preparing some of the native dishes.

“I call my dad to guide me through making a few dishes like banana buñelos and chicken kelaguin when I am missing home,” she said.

Every May during Asian American and Pacific Islander month is a time to recognize the contributions and influence of AAPI Americans have made to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

“Being a part of a small group like the Chamorros, it is important for us to be proud of our culture and heritage,” she said. “Having AAPI month to reflect and celebrate our traditions and meet other AAPI Americans is always eye opening and a new learning experience.”