Expressions of ethnic dances, martial arts exhibitions and food samplings of Chinese, Korean and Filipino cuisine were part of the West Point Equal Opportunity Office and Simon Center for Professional Military Ethic's eighth annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month observance May 1.

Despite forecasts of thunderstorms, more than 450 West Point and Highland Falls community members gathered at Trophy Point to take part in the celebration.

The rain let up just as the celebration began with performances by the Alay Philippine Cultural Dance Group from Danbury, Conn., and demonstrations by various martial arts cadet clubs such as Kendo, Judo and Taekwondo.

Cadets also performed the traditional Hawaiian hula dance and the Haka dance, which originated in New Zealand.

The Asian Pacific Awareness Club, headed by Col. Bryan Goda and Firsties Jennifer Acojedo and Antonio Manzano, planned and coordinated the show, which allowed the crowd to see and experience the various and distinct cultures celebrated each May during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

As the month progresses, the EEO office encourages everyone to continue to commemorate the rich history of Asian Pacific Americans, one that has helped to define what it means to be an American.

Asian Pacific Americans make up more than 5 percent of the nation's population with more than 16 million U.S. residents who claim they are of Asian, Hawaiian Native or Pacific Islander descent.

There are currently more than 250,000 Asian Pacific Islanders who have served in the U.S. military.

Asian Pacific Islanders are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States.

To emphasize the importance of equal opportunity and diversity, the observance began with the graduation of 10 Soldiers who had recently completed the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, a 60-hour course that gives Soldiers the skill sets and knowledge to educate, train and promote equal opportunity in their respective units.

The course culminated with a final exam and an individual presentation on different ethnic groups.

Garrison Commander Col. Dan Bruno presented EOLC certificates of completion to 1st Lt. Jessie Mooney, Military Police Company; Staff Sgt. Jeremy Dean, USMA Preparatory School; Staff Sgt. Isaac Johnson, Warrior Transition Unit; Staff Sgts. Thomas Hewitt, Marie Ransom, Michael Wagner and Kathy Yusuf, MEDDAC; Sgt. Maurice Coats, WTU; Sgt. Cierra Ortiz, MP Company; and Sgt. Latoya Pratt; Veterinarian Services.

Page last updated Thu May 7th, 2009 at 14:34