Benning honors Asian Pacific heritage
May 29, 2009
- "I think the Army is the best example of cultural awareness,"
Fort Benning celebrated the culture of nearly 60 countries, from Sri Lanka and Bahrain to Singapore and the Philippines, during the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon May 21.
The observance helps improve cultural awareness in the community, said CPT Batina Church, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 192nd Infantry Brigade.
"Some people think of Asian Pacific heritage as just Hawaii or maybe just China, but there are others - Korea, Japan ... it gives people a chance to get educated about all the different cultures that are out there," said Church, who is half Korean and served her first tour in Korea.
"I think the Army is the best example of cultural awareness," she said. "Look around the room. Where else in a business organization are you going to see pretty much every state represented, every culture represented' You have it right here."
Although today the military is a strong supporter of equality, guest speaker 1SG(R) Harold Lusano reminded people of a time, in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when hysteria turned the country against Japanese Americans.
"From March to May 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans and American citizens of Japanese descent were uprooted from their homes and moved to relocation camps," said Lusano, who is of Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese and Filipino descent. "Businesses were lost, homes sold quickly and far below market value, families were separated, privacy and dignity stripped from men, women and children - all because of the color of their skin and the origin of their ethnic heritage."
A year later, the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American unit, was formed. Though facing discrimination at home, the unit risked everything to rescue Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, who were surrounded by German troops.
"Ultimately, more than 800 Soldiers, virtually all Japanese Americans, gave their lives to reach 275 of their comrades," Lusano said. "They believed in America even when America didn't believe in them."
Asian Pacific Americans were not accorded full consideration for the Medal of Honor because of prevailing racism at the time, he said. More than 50 years later, 22 Asian Pacific Americans were upgraded from the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
"May we never forget the sacrifices made by others on our behalf, on behalf of justice, liberation and the American ideal of freedom," Lusano said. "America is a country of color ... a huge rainbow arching from the island of Hawaii to New York City. It's people of every race and religion coming together as one to support our great nation."