WASHINGTON — Commands throughout the Navy are celebrating Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month during May, and two Navy officers are serving as prime examples of the diversity found within the Navy’s ranks.
Capt. Raquel C. Bono was nominated in April for promotion to rear admiral. Her brother, Rear Adm. Anatolio B. Cruz III, is a Navy reservist who was promoted last year. They will be the only siblings of Filipino descent to hold flag-officer ranks simultaneously.
“Service to others; service to country,” Bono said. “It was ingrained in us by our father and mother in gratitude to their adopted country, the United States.”
Bono and Cruz’s grandfather – an obstetrician in the Philippines – was commissioned as a U.S. Army colonel and supported his countrymen in their fight against the Japanese during World War II.
Some 20 years later, their father and mother left Manila for Minnesota, where their father completed his surgical residency. The family ultimately settled in San Antonio, Texas. Their father went on to serve in the Navy Reserve, eventually retiring as a captain.
Bono, the oldest child, enrolled at the University of Texas and considered becoming a nurse. Her father asked, “Why not be a doctor?” she recalled.
In the question, she said she heard a lesson: if she believed in herself, she could accomplish lofty goals and serve others, too. So, through the Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship program, she earned her medical degree at Texas Tech and began her military career with a general surgery residency at Naval Hospital Portsmouth, Va.
She was the first woman to graduate from the program.
“I had tremendous support from the department … from the staff that ran the program,” she said. “What I enjoyed about being in the Navy was that I always felt confident that my ability to be advanced was going to be based on my capabilities and my performance. I felt that I had an equitable opportunity to succeed.”
Cruz, one year younger than his sister, graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., 1980, and in the following year reported to USS Gray, where he was the only minority officer. In 1982, he earned the Pacific Fleet Shiphandler of the Year Award.
In 1984, Cruz returned to Annapolis as an admissions and congressional liaison officer. He transferred to the Navy Reserve two years later, but remained closely involved in academy admissions for the next 22 years, with a particular interest in promoting diversity.
“I’ve seen firsthand the strides we’ve made over the years,” he said.
Cruz spent most of his career in special operations assignments and completed six command tours. Units he commanded earned the Leo Bilger Award for mission effectiveness and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for exceptional performance.
Regardless of those accomplishments, he said he has always been in awe of his sister.
“She was the smart one and very disciplined at everything she did,” Cruz said. “Dad set the bar and she raised that bar. Quite frankly, she deserved to make flag before I did.” After three years as commanding officer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla., Bono became chief of staff of the TRICARE Management Activity in September 2008. In 2010, she became the deputy director of medical resources, plans and policy for the chief of naval operations.
Cruz has been U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command’s and U.S. 4th Fleet’s deputy commander since February 2010. They talk frequently, often about military topics, and while Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes around just once a year, they find support for their Filipino-American heritage every day, Bono said.
“The Navy has been a great place to pursue a career and still maintain the essence of who you are as an individual and a member of a particular ethnic group,” she said. “It’s an environment that values the different, representative groups to enhance and promote the people who are serving.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)