SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (May 7, 2009) -- Amid dimmed lights Soldiers received a taste of Polynesia through colorful dancing, heart-felt music and lively cultural-inspired speeches. Members of the Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks communities gathered at Sgt. Smith Theater here, May 7, to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage month.

This year's theme was "Leadership to meet the challenges of a changing world." The performance included hula dancing inspired by individual cultures of the Pacific islands such as Tahiti and the Hawaiian islands. Asian-Pacific American heritage has been celebrated as a month-long event for almost 20 years.

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, an influential Asian-American who developed American Tae Kwon Do, was the guest speaker at the event and spoke on a variety of topics related to leadership.

"It is important to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage month because the world is becoming one," said Rhee. "I am truly honored to be here."

The dancers were also more than happy to perform at the ethnic celebration.

"We enjoy sharing our culture, and we're grateful to Soldiers for keeping us safe," said Kawena Chun, a dancer with Dizanne Productions dance company.

Soldiers who attended the event walked away feeling a little more inspired than when they walk in.

"I believe anytime you have opportunity to absorb knowledge from someone as accomplished as [Rhee] is truly a blessing," said Staff Sgt. Adrian Duriano, a desk sergeant with the 13th Military Police Company, 728th Military Police Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade. "I was grateful for that chance."

"I came to get in touch with my culture and celebrate my heritage," said Staff Sgt. Brian Topasna, also a desk sergeant, 13th Military Police Company, 728th Military Police Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade.

Soldiers also enjoyed the free entertainment. As his daughter is part Hawaiian, Duriano said it is important for him to learn the meanings and tradition of the hula.

In addition to the festivities, the event included several distinguished guests such as Oahu's Lt. Governor James Aiona and Brig. Gen. John Seward, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific Command. Brig. Gen. Seward, a friend of Rhee's, was presented with his fourth-degree black belt by Rhee during the ceremony.

The celebration was sponsored by the 8th Theater Sustainment Command and the Hawaii Army Equal Opportunity team.

Page last updated Wed May 13th, 2009 at 22:58