As the U.S. continues to fortify its Pacific territories amidst escalating tensions with China, the impacts of these actions fall heavily on the nation's most overlooked and underrepresented citizens, such as the people of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI).

Despite the island's significant role in US defense, Guam and the NMI are often overlooked by most Americans and is missing from many NGO and US government lists. The US military owns nearly a third of Guam's land.

The island's strategic location also makes it a target. In war games between the US and China, Beijing's first strike on US soil is always Guam. The island also faces threats from North Korea, which has tested missiles capable of reaching Guam.

The US has ruled, nuked, resettled, and fought wars on islands scattered across the Pacific for nearly 125 years, yet the region has often been on the periphery of America's understanding of its empire. 

The New York Times Magazine has published a thorough piece on the subject through the eyes of Roy Gamboa, a CHamoru native and Marine veteran. We invite you to learn more about Guam and Roy's powerful story by reading the full article. Excerpt below:

Roy Gamboa, a CHamoru native and Marine veteran, didn’t really understand what his grandfather was talking about; it would take him years to realize it was related to Guam’s status as an “unincorporated territory”. It was just normal that no one residing on Guam could vote for president, that the U.S. territory had no senator and only one, nonvoting, member of the House. Roy’s grandfather never spoke about how their island had been colonized for hundreds of years: first by the Spanish, beginning in 1668, and then the Americans, in 1898, until they fled in 1941, returning three years later to liberate the CHamoru people from brutal Japanese occupation.

Growing up, Roy was told that Uncle Sam had saved the CHamoru — and that in return, because their people did not have much, they gave up their sons and their daughters to military service, so others around the world could have their own freedom. “You know the saying: ‘If you can read and write, thank a teacher; if you can read and write in English, thank a veteran,’” Roy told me.

Guam, with its strategic location, quickly became home to Andersen Air Force Base, where B-52 bombers deploy on a rotational basis, and Naval Base Guam was expanded. The Guam tourism board’s slogan, Where America’s day begins!, was everywhere. The Guam Chamber of Commerce proudly proclaimed the island America in Asia! while Guam’s license plates read Guam, U.S.A.; but underneath that they also said Tano Y Chamorro — “the land of the CHamoru.”

This sense of dual identity, but also a kind of second-class status, was confusing in ways Roy couldn’t even begin to express, so Roy and his family, like many around them, just didn’t. It wasn’t really in their culture to rock the boat or talk about some of the more unpleasant things. Roy wasn’t taught that the Americans had banned the CHamoru language for decades (which is one reason Roy himself didn’t speak it well) or that the Americans had been the ones to abandon the CHamoru to the Japanese in the first place, or that upon their return, the U.S. Navy annexed the entire island, and then started carving out the best land for military use, displacing entire villages including that of his paternal and maternal grandparents. Today the military owns nearly a third of Guam’s 217 square miles (which is roughly the size of Chicago).