Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May 20, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month May 14 with a luncheon at The Marine Club on the Henderson Hall portion of the joint base.
Col. Jon Spaar, executive officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall, served as the event's host.
"Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions, the sacrifices and accomplishments of these men, women and children who have helped shape America," he said.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was first established in 1977 when Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Mineta and Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced resolutions asking President Jimmy Carter to declare the first 10 days of May, the month when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States in 1843, as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. In 1978, Carter made it an annual event. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the entire month of May to be Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Spaar said the month's theme, "I am beyond," honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He pointed to the discrimination those of Asian descent who immigrated to America in the 19th century to help build the transcontinental railroad faced. He also noted that in the 1940s many Japanese Americans were interred in camps during World War II.
"Even with all of that, about 16,000 [Japanese Americans] volunteered to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team," he said. "They saw action all throughout Europe in Italy, Germany and France. They were one of the most highly decorated units in the war."
Japanese Americans also saw action in the Pacific Theater during the war and some also served by decoding messages, continued Spaar.
"The heritage of these individuals has demonstrated their character, courage and commitment to remain strong," he said.
The event's guest speaker was Dr. Kin Wong, a general engineer in the engineering and research division, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, who serves as the national president of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council.
"[Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month] was created through legislation to call attention to the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our culture and the development of our country," he said.
Wong discussed the diversity of the Asian and Pacific Islander people, their culture and religious beliefs and said Asian Americans make up about five percent of the nation's population.
He also tackled the issue of how the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are stereotyped as being smart, well-educated and wealthy.
"If you look around at the hospitality industry, at the restaurants and hotels, you see a lot of the workers earning minimum pay are Asians and Pacific Islanders," Wong said. "They are taxi drivers; they are domestic workers."
Like all races, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can be found everywhere from top tier colleges like Harvard to community colleges, he continued.
JBM-HH commanding officer Col. Fern O. Sumpter presented Wong with commander's coins on behalf of herself and Col. Anthony Barnes, commanding officer of Henderson Hall.
"The one thing that I would like to point out is everyone in this room, to include Dr. Wong, are members of one race: the human race," she said.