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Celebrating Army’s diversity: Event honors Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage

Melanie Turner, former military family member, performs a traditional Hula dance during the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month kickoff celebration at the post exchange April 29. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Melanie Turner, former military family member, performs a traditional Hula dance during the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month kickoff celebration at the post exchange April 29. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 5, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 5, 2016) -- With the smell of Asian cuisine filling the air, people were able to take a bite of culture during an observance that celebrated the diversity that the Army and nation provides.

Throughout May, Fort Rucker is celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and the observance kicked off with an event to highlight the contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans at the post exchange April 29.

People came out in droves to sample authentic Asian cuisine, learn about the history and contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans, and enjoy music and dance performances.

Sgt. 1st Class David Hedgepeth, 110th Aviation Brigade Equal Opportunity adviser, said the event provides an opportunity for education to the community on the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made an impact on American culture.

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are part of our community and it is important we honor their heritage,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to highlight the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made in our military and in America.”

The U.S. has recognized the month of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month since 1977 as a time to acknowledge the achievements and contributions to the American story by Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians, said Staff Sgt. Kris Souza, A Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment, adding that this month’s theme for the observance is “Walk together, embrace differences, build legacies.”

“The phrase reflects the aspirations of many Asian American-Pacific Islanders who help shape this nation,” he said. “While these communities have roots that expand the globe, their success stories are uniquely American.

“Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped develop and defend the United States, often in the face of tremendous racial and cultural prejudice,” continued Souza. “Despite these difficulties, these men and women struggled, sacrificed and persevered to build a better life for their children and all Americans.”

Throughout the observance people got the chance to learn about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who fought in various conflicts throughout the nation’s history. In addition to a lesson in history, people also got the chance to sample different Asian cuisines from all over the world, watch performances of traditional Hawaiian music and dance, learn about Chinese art and calligraphy, and mingle with people from different cultures from around the world.

James Denison, veteran, said throughout his years of service, working with Soldiers of different backgrounds and cultures helped his unit become a more cohesive team.

“You need to have those different cultures and outlooks because I think that homogeneity can only breed ignorance,” he said. “There is always more than one way to look at a situation, and having the viewpoint of someone who comes from a completely different background than you is something that’s invaluable.

“There were so many times where we wouldn’t have thought outside of the box just because we never experienced anything other than what we know,” Denison continued. “I think it’s great that we recognize this type of diversity. It’s not about celebrating what makes us different, but about celebrating what differences bring us together.”

The kickoff event was just the start of observances throughout the month, said Hedgepeth.

The Center Library will host an origami class and book reading May 10 from 10-11 a.m., and government I.D. card holders and their families are invited to attend a free tour of the Confucius Institute of Troy University May 13. The bus departs from the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at 9 a.m. and returns at about 3:30 p.m. Attendees only need money for lunch. People must register and the deadline to register is May 10. Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, call 255-2669.

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