Army Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano (born 1946) was one of the highest-ranking Filipino Americans in the history of the American military. He was involved in some of the most difficult offensives in the Gulf War and after September 11, 2001. He joined the Army as a second lieutenant of infantry and retired as a three-star lieutenant general.
Born in Philippines to Army Father
Soriano was born on November 12, 1946, in Alcala, Pangasinan, Philippines, to natives of Ilocos Sur. Alcala is a small city some hundred miles north of Manila. Soriano was born to Federico Soriano, a military officer, and Encarnacion, a homemaker who raised Soriano and his sister Blez. He spent his youth struggling through one illness after another and even had to have an operation when he was five years old to have kidney stones removed. At one point his mother recalled that he was so sick he almost died, but somehow the young Soriano managed to fight his way out of his childhood illnesses to become a strong and healthy adult. When he was still quite young the Soriano family moved to Guam for his father's career. It was one of many moves that the children would go through over their lifetimes. Both Soriano and his sister enjoyed their youth as children of a military man because they lived in interesting locales and met many different people. Soriano told Starweek , "I thought what my father was doing was good. He was a great example for me. He was probably the reason I joined the military."
When Soriano was only seven years old, his father, a corporal in the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts, was captured during the Korean War when the Japanese attacked Corregidor. Along with all the other men captured in battle, Soriano's father was forced to march to a camp for prisoners of war in Tarlac. Many men, including Federico's brother, died on the march to the camp, known as a death march, but Soriano's father survived and was forced to stay at the internment camp for three years. When her husband was captured, Soriano's mother packed her family up and moved them back to the Philippines to keep them all safe. The family stayed there until Federico was released.
Moved to the United States
In the 1960s, not long after Soriano's father was reunited with his family, the Sorianos moved to Salinas, California. After they became citizens of the United States Soriano's father joined the United States Army as a corporal. When he retired he was a major. As the children were getting used to their new home, Soriano's parents took care to make certain that their children learned English quickly after their move so that they could quickly become integrated into their new world.
Soriano graduated from the Salinas High School. While he was in high school he participated in sports, and also joined a Filipino dance troupe with his sister. Dance classes taught Soriano, among other things, how to do the tinikling, which is a Filipino folk dance done with poles. Soriano's family, while wishing their children become easily integrated into their new society, also wanted to make certain that they kept a connection with their home heritage, and this was one great way to do that. Both children were raised to be independent, free-thinking individuals, but were also instilled with a dose of the Filipino view of family values and respect for elders. His upbringing would serve Soriano well in his future endeavors.
Joined Army as Second Lieutenant
After high school Soriano went on to attend San Jose State University. He graduated in 1969 with a degree in management. He went on to get a master's degree at the same school. When it was time for Soriano to choose a career, he asked his father about a career in the military, and his father responded positively. The military opened a range of opportunities for young Soriano that other careers simply could not offer him. He told the Asian Week website, "I was interested in that way of life, which can be personally and professionally rewarding."
Soriano joined the Army, and in 1970 was commissioned through the San Jose State University's ROTC program as a second lieutenant of infantry. At the time he entered the military it was already a very diverse organization, and Soriano has said that he suffered none of the racism that had afflicted minorities earlier. He told Starweek magazine, "I never really thought about [racism] much. If I did I don't remember." It was actually the diversity of the military that had encouraged Soriano to join-he has always believed that diversity gave the military much of its strength.
Gulf War and Other Assignments
Throughout his career Soriano attended several military schools. In 1989 he graduated from the Army War College. He believed that skills learned in the military could be taken successfully into any profession. Rather than racial difficulties, Soriano faced the regular challenges of progression in the military: working alongside thousands of others for an increasingly smaller number of positions as he moved up. He told Starweek , "The challenge is always seeking those opportunities that allow you to progress, that allow you to get better. And that's what I did, that's how I rose through the ranks, how I got all the right jobs, the right positions. I worked as hard as I could, tried to be the best that I could possibly be."
After his initial training, in 1973 Soriano commanded Company C, 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry of the 3d Brigade of the U.S. 9th Infantry Division. He held that position until 1975. Soriano was next given the position of assistant commander of the 1st Infantry Division of American peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. He also served in the Gulf War, becoming the chief of a liaison team to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force sent to Saudi Arabia. In 1992 he was sent to be the Army Section chief of the Secretary of Defense Gulf War Report team for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Part of Homeland Security After September 11th
Because of his good performance record, Soriano became the director for operations, readiness, and mobilization at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. In that position he made certain that Army units were prepared to be instantly deployed on missions around the world. He was specifically in charge of troops in Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, and other areas of tension around the world. Of all his positions Soriano told the Asian Week website, "It's a significant responsibility. You're entrusted with the lives of the soldiers and their families. It takes dedication and hard work to succeed." And these were things that Soriano was more and more proving that he had.
After September 11, 2001, when the World Tade Center buildings were destroyed by terrorists, the U.S. government set up a homeland security department under the Joint Forces Command. This department ran separately from the its civilian counterpart. Soriano was given the office of the second director of homeland security in the military in November of 2001. He held the position for ten months before he was made, in 2002, a commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis in Washington, a position he held for the rest of his career.
Retired and Visited Philippines
When he retired in 2004 Soriano was a three-star lieutenant general. The day he attained that position he became the highest-ranking Filipino-American in the United States armed forces, and only the second general ever to have Filipino roots. Soriano attended an event at the White House when President Arroyo of the Philippines and his wife visited the United States.
Soriano married Vivian Guillermo, whose parents were from Laoag in the Philippines. She was born in California. The two had two children, Melissa and Keith. In 2004 Soriano and his family went back to the Philippines to visit relatives. It was Soriano's first return to the country of his birth. Soriano told Starweek that it was possible to achieve success in one's chosen field "if a person establishes the goals and objectives, works very hard at what he does, and if that person doesn't give up too easily and commits himself, dedicates himself to what he wants to do."
Soriano has been given many awards over the lifetime of his careers, including the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, and several Army Commendation and Achievement Medals. He has also received many badges over his career, including the expert infantryman's badge and has been ranger and airborne qualified.
Starweek , October 1, 2004.
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"Major General," Asian Week , http://www.asianweek.com-082297-newsmaker.html (January 2, 2007).
"President Bush Welcomes President Arroyo in State Arrival Ceremony," The White House , http://www.whitehouse.gov-news-releases-2003-05-20030519-1.html (January 2, 2007).