Redstone shows appreciation to Asian Pacific heritage
June 7, 2013
His father black, his mother Japanese, it's a question he has been asked many times over the course of his lifetime, but for Bostick it's more than just a question -- it's a heritage and diversity he is proud to claim and bring to the Army.
"We have to reflect America," Bostick, 53rd chief of engineers and commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, said of the military. "We have to reflect America in gender and diversity and in race, religion, in everything that we do because when this country goes to war, the country has got to go to war with every part of the country represented."
Bostick served as the keynote speaker for the Team Redstone Asian-Pacific American Heritage Observance, "Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion," May 29 at Bob Jones Auditorium. Throughout his remarks, Bostick reflected on his own life and heritage, as well as the contributions of other Asian-Pacific Americans not only to the military, but to the country itself.
"I think these events are very important for us to reflect and celebrate the diversity that we have in our military and in our country, and the strength that we gain from it," Bostick said.
Citing from historical examples, as well as those in today's world, he pointed to Asian-Pacific leaders, such as retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, the seventh secretary of veterans affairs, and Norm Mineta, who served as the 14th secretary of transportation and 33rd secretary of commerce, as examples of the great things Asian-Pacific Americans bring to the table.
"Can you imagine a country; can you imagine an Army without these types of leaders, without that type of diversity, that type of inclusion?" Bostick said. "It makes a difference. They made significant contributions to our nation and to our Army, and many are doing the same today. The armed forces is a reflection of America, an all-volunteer force, representing virtually every possible ethnic and religious group, and they work together to defend this nation. So why do we do this? Why do we come together and do this each year? Sometimes I ask myself that question. I certainly don't have it as hard as my dad had it and his dad who came over many, many years ago in the 1800s, but it's important for us to remind ourselves each and every day in the build of culture, a culture that's inclusive and that values diversity and the strength that it brings."
The importance of events like last week's observance was evident in Bostick's recollection of the lives of two different Asian-Pacific Americans with the last name Chen who served in the Army. Bostick pointed out the discrepancies between their stories -- the Soldier who was well-loved and highly regarded before he was killed in combat, and another brilliant young man who chose to join the Army only to be ridiculed by his fellow Soldiers, who called him unspeakable names, threw rocks at him and treated him cruelly before he committed suicide.
"Whether you're a young lieutenant, a young sergeant, a civilian, or a member of the contracting team, we're all role models in ways that we have no idea," Bostick said. "How you reach out and accept people for what they are -- their race, their religion, their ethnicity, how they contribute to the team -- that means a lot, and people are watching. They may never say anything, like folks have said to me, but it makes a difference. I appreciate on this day that you're here. It's discussions like this that would have helped that unit that was on a forward operating base with three Soldiers, who would've been sensitized to the importance of inclusion and diversity and the strength that people bring to the team."
In addition to Bostick's remarks, attendees enjoyed cultural presentations by local students. Andy Nguyen, a student at Horizon Elementary, played "Sakura" on the piano, and Vinootna and Vijitha Kantety, students at James Clemens High and Liberty Middle respectively, performed the Kuchipudi, South Indian Classical Dance Form, to the song Sarva Mangalam.
Winners of the essay and static display contests received a certificate and coin on behalf of Col. Robert Ruch, commander, Engineering and Support Center-Huntsville. Winners of the essay contest are: Jackie Martin, first place, Missile Defense Agency; Raymond Wesley, second place, Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center; Nelminia Serrano, third place, Defense Logistics Agency. Winners of the display contest are: Garrison, first place; Space and Missile Defense Command, second place; and Engineering and Support Center-Huntsville, third place.
"Building leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion acknowledges all that the U.S. Army has gained from the Asian-Pacific Americans, and how the nation has been strengthened and enriched by embracing their cultural diversity," Ruch said. "This observance provides us a chance to show our appreciation for the past and present contributions made by Asian-Pacific American Soldiers, civilians and their family members. We're here today to celebrate their accomplishments and say thank you."