Meet the highest ranking Filipino general officer in the National Guard. He’s from Hawaii.

HNN’s Annalisa Burgos caught up with him when he got back to Washington, DC, to talk about his 33-year journey.
Published: Feb. 19, 2023 at 10:34 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2023 at 11:52 AM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Major General Roy Macaraeg of Honolulu is believed to be the highest ranking Filipino citizen soldier in the history of the National Guard. Governor Josh Green hosted a promotion ceremony for him earlier this month.

HNN’s Annalisa Burgos caught up with him when he got back to Washington, DC, to talk about his 33-year journey.

“It’s the people that supported me along the way and inspired me along the way, it was good. It was also good that, you know, I went home, part of me was just wanted to get the ceremony over, I could have done it here in the Pentagon, but to actually do it in front of, you know, family, my mom, my friends. My high school classmates actually showed up, you know, class of 1991 Farrington High School, so that was pretty, pretty, pretty awesome,” he said.

“So born in the Philippines. Family immigrated actually didn’t come to Hawaii until I was 10 years old. Then growing up in Kalihi. From Malasiki, Pangasinan, went to Kalihi Elementary, actually, for a little while, and then transferred to Kalihi Kai went to collect our intermediate and Farrington,” he explained. “My dad was a construction worker, my mom was actually a teacher. She taught at dole intermediate and then, you know, she started working for HMSA because, uh, you know, better better pay and, you know, it would provide better for the family. But, just growing up, especially, immigrants, right, just assimilating in the system itself, getting comfortable making friends. But I think that’s the key, though. You know, there there’s always friction, right with with groups, stereotypes. Obstacles are along the way. But, you know, it’s just how you deal with them.”

“Growing up, in kind of like an environment where you, you got to actually share things, right, because you didn’t have anything, right. You just have what you needed. And actually, provide you that, that ability to actually solve complex problems early in life. Right, I think that’s really part of, you know, what helped me to be resilient, to have the grit to really focus on what I need to do in life to be successful,” said Macaraeg, who has five siblings.

Macaraeg said he was surprised to be the first general officer of Filipino descent in the Hawaii National Guard -- much less the national organization -- considering the diversity of the state.

“In the Asian American community, we tend to be not vocal, right, you know, not aggressive. And I think, you know, part of it is really recognizing, you know, the opportunities and really going for the opportunities, right? There are I think if you show your value in any organization, you get the opportunities,” he said.

When asked why recruitment numbers for the Hawaii Army National Guard are not as high as they used to be, Macaraeg said many people are unaware of the benefits.

“The willingness to serve, I think it’s still there. We just need to make sure the Army and the Army National Guard really reconnect back to this generation. There’s so much opportunities, joining the army, and I don’t think we do such a good job in telling the benefits of it,” he said. “I think the greatest part of my job is really the part that I served the country and our state and communities, I think it’s fulfilling.”