Government documents like military and civil service personnel files are excellent sources of information for life writers, but the prioritization of information obscures features of the source document, often stripping genre, style, tone, and voice from content. This composition seeks to tell a compelling story, while maintaining features of the documents in the military and civil service files of M—, a Filipino immigrant who joined the US Navy in 1908. The source documents, mostly letters, are selected, edited, condensed, and annotated to tell a story about migration, labor, and citizenship. The documents highlight the relationship between record keeping and human activity, but leave us questioning how well documents can help us understand human motivation and identity formations.

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